A Brief Overview of British Military Bands

Introduction

This article provides a brief outline of the bands within the British Armed Forces.

Royal Air Force Bands

Royal Air Force Music Services has its origins in the RAF School of Music which was established by Walford Davies in 1918.

NameLocation (2018)Establishment (2018)Remarks
Headquarters Music ServicesRAF Northholt11
Central Band of the RAF and the RAF SquadronairesRAF Northholt53Established in 1920. In 1922 they were the first military band to broadcast on the BBC. They play a vital part in State Ceremonial events, as well as performing across the UK in support of Service charities and Military Tattoos.
The Band of the RAF Regiment and the RAF Shades of BlueRAF Northholt53Established in 1942.
The RAF Salon OrchestraRAF Northholt7The RAF Salon Orchestra is a seven-piece strings and piano ensemble that performs for Royal, state, and ceremonial occasions across the UK and around the world. The Orchestra’s roots are traceable to 1937 when a number of London’s finest string players were recruited for the RAF Symphony Orchestra which found eminence in the war years. As national service came to an end, the Symphony Orchestra was significantly reduced and the Salon Orchestra was established in 1949. Today, this versatile ensemble performs in a variety of settings from intimate formal dinners to prestigious concert venues with some of the biggest names in the music industry.
The Band of the RAF College and RAF Swing WingRAF Cranwell53Established in 1920. Although its primary function was to provide musical support for the college it was has since excelled and became the first ever military band to be recorded in concert, live for broadcast on Sky Arts.
The Band of the Royal Auxiliary Air ForceRAF Cranwell54Formation took place at Royal Air Force College Cranwell in 2015 with its first attestation in 2016. Consisting of four full time Reserve staff at their Headquarters, the other members of the Band are Part Time Volunteer Reserve (PTVR) Musicians who are contracted to a minimum of 27 days per year. The Band undertake a variety of engagements both independently and in support of the three Regular Royal Air Force Bands.

Notes

  • The establishment (posts not people) total is 177 Regular personnel and 54 RAF Reserve (including 4 Full Time Reserve Service personnel.
  • There have been no establishment changes since 2018.
  • In 2018, the RAF Music Services were part of 38 Group before moving to the Support Force in 2020.
The Band of the RAF Regiment.

Royal Marines Bands

NameLocation (2018)Establishment (2018)Remarks
HeadquartersHMS Excellent
Royal Marines School of MusicHMS NelsonThe training establishment for the Royal Marines Band Service. As such, it provides all the military training needed for students to offer logistical and medical support to serving Royal Marines Commandos, while also giving musical training to the future musicians and buglers of the most versatile military band in the world. Each student has the opportunity to qualify up to degree level, gaining the expertise required to eventually perform on the world stage, both at important ceremonial events and high-profile concerts.
Her Majesty’s Royal Marine Band PortsmouthHMS Nelson65
Her Majesty’s Royal Marine Band CollingwoodHMS Collingwood55Has a dual role: entertaining and inspiring both troops and civilians; and deploying on RFA Argus as a fully operational military force.
Her Majesty’s Royal Marine Band ScotlandMOD Caledonia55Formed at HMS Condor, Arbroath, in 1960. Moves to Rosyth in 1971.
Her Majesty’s Royal Marine Band PlymouthHMS Raleigh55A typical week’s work for RM Band Plymouth could include a ceremonial parade for a visiting head of state, several Beating Retreat displays for the general public, a fanfare for the opening of a new prestigious building, a concert, an evening dance and a cabaret display, as well as providing orchestral background music for naval dinners.
Her Majesty’s Royal Marine Band Commando Training Centre LympstoneCTC RM55
Corps of Drums

Notes

  • There have been no establishment changes since 2018.
  • The Naval Service consists of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines.
  • Command is through the Deputy Commandant Royal Marines.
  • There are also several Royal Navy Volunteer Bands, located at:
    • HMS Seahawk.
    • HMS Drake.
    • BRNC Dartmouth.
    • HMS Heron.
    • HMS Collingwood.
    • HMS Sultan.
    • HMS Nelson.
    • Northwood Headquarters.
    • HMS Neptune.

British Army Bands

  • All Regular Army bands are part of the Royal Corps of Army Music.
  • The Corps was formed in 1994 under the ‘Options for Change’ Defence Review.
  • On the 11 January 2021, HRH The Countess of Wessex presented the Royal Title to the Corps on behalf of Her Majesty The Queen.
  • The home of the Corps is Gibraltar Barracks, Minley, a site that encompasses:
    • Headquarters The Royal Corps of Army Music; and
    • Kneller Wing of the Royal Military School of Music.
  • Kneller Hall, Twickenham, used to house the Corps’ Headquarters and the Royal Military School of Music.
  • The School was founded by HRH Field Marshal the Duke of Cambridge after his appointment as Commander in Chief of the British Army in 1857.
  • The establishment was graciously retitled the Royal Military School of Music in the Golden Jubilee year of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, 1887.
  • A plaque to commemorate the Centenary of the School’s opening was unveiled by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1957.
  • Army music moved from Kneller Hall in 2021 to Minley, Surrey and Portsmouth, Hampshire.
  • There are approximately 750 serving Regular musicians.

Regular Army Bands (2018)

NameLocationEstablishment
The Band of the Household CavalryWindsor63
Band of the Grenadier GuardsLondon46
Band of the Coldstream GuardsLondon46
Band of the Scots GuardsLondon46
Band of the Irish GuardsLondon46
Band of the Welsh GuardsLondon46
The Countess of Wessex’s String OrchestraWoolwich20
The Band of the Royal Regiment of ScotlandEdinburgh46
The Band of the Royal Armoured CorpsCatterick35
The Band of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical EngineersCatterick14
The Band of the Parachute RegimentColchester35
The Army Air Corps BandColchester15
The Prince of Wales BandSt Athan32
The Royal Artillery BandTidworth35
The Band and Bugles of the RiflesWinchester35
The Band of the King’s DivisionWeeton32
The Band of the Queen’s DivisionHenlow34
The Band of the Adjutant General’s CorpsWorthy Down15
The Band of the Corps of Royal EngineersChatham35
The Band of the Royal Logistic s CorpsDeepcut35
The Band of the Royal Corps of SignalsCosford32
The Band of the Brigade of GurkhasFolkestone35

Notes

  • Location changes since 2018 (changed in 2019) are as follows:
    • The Prince of Wales Band (St Athan to Brecon).
    • The Band and Bugles of the Rifles (Winchester to Worthy Down).
    • The Band of the King’s Division (Weeton to Catterick).
    • The Band of the Queen’s Division (Henlow to Colchester).
    • The Band of the Adjutant General’s Corps (Worthy Down to Tidworth).
    • The Band of the Corps of Royal Engineers (Chatham to Tidworth).
    • The Band of the Royal Logistic Corps (Deepcut to Sandhurst).
    • The Band of the Royal Corps of Signals (Cosford to Sandhurst).
  • In terms of ‘command’:
    • Regular Army Bands came under Regional Command in 2018.
    • In 2019, this changed to London District.

Regular Army Bands (2019)

In 2019, the bands were restructured as outlined below.

NameSpecialismActive FromLocationRemarks
Band of the Household CavalryMounted BandSeptember 2014WindsorThe band was formed in September 2014 by the union of The Band of The Life Guards with The Band of The Blues and Royals, the two mounted bands of the British Army. With over sixty musicians, the band is now the largest Regular military band in the UK.
Band of the Grenadier GuardsSymphonic Wind Band1685Central LondonIt is one of the oldest and most iconic military bands in the world. Formed in 1685 at the request of Charles II, the band began as an ensemble of Hautbois (a forerunner to the oboe).
Band of the Coldstream GuardsSymphonic Wind Band1685Central LondonIts main tasks include Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace and performing for The Queen’s Birthday Parade.
Band of the Scots GuardsSymphonic Wind Band1716Central LondonIts roles include musical support to Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace and performing for The Queen’s Birthday Parade.
Band of the Irish GuardsSymphonic Wind Band1900Central LondonIt was formed on 1st April 1900, to commemorate the bravery of the men from Irish Regiments who fought with distinction in the South African campaigns. Its main tasks include Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace and performing for The Queen’s Birthday Parade.
Band of the Welsh GuardsSymphonic Wind Band1915Central LondonFormed in 1915 in the same year as the Regiment. Its main tasks include Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace and performing for The Queen’s Birthday Parade.
The Band of the Royal Regiment of ScotlandSymphonic Wind Band2006EdinburghIts main tasks include supporting the British Army at ceremonial occasions that occur in Scotland, including Garden Parties, State Banquets and Guards of Honour at The Palace of Holyrood House, Edinburgh and Stirling Castles, and Balmoral.
The Band and Bugles of The RiflesMarching Fast2007WinchesterFormed from The Band and Bugles of The Light Division on 1st February 2007. This took place in conjunction with the formation of The RIFLES, a new infantry regiment created through the amalgamation of The Devonshire and Dorset Light Infantry, The Light Infantry, The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Light Infantry and The Royal Green Jackets. The band is the fastest marching band in the British Army adopting a tempo of 140 beats per minute!
The Band of the Prince of WalesBrass Ensemble2019BreconIn existence since 2017 with its roots being firmly embedded within the former Lucknow and Clive Bands of The Prince Of Wales’s Division. The instrumentation of this band is focused on the brass family and provides a range of small specialist ensembles to events such as dinner nights, church services and Remembrance events across Wales and the United Kingdom.
The Countess Of Wessex’s String Orchestra (CWSO)String Orchestra2014WoolwichIts main roles include performing for investitures and ceremonies at the Royal households, including state banquets and dinners. Although string playing can be traced back as far as 1762 with the Orchestra of The Royal Artillery, the CWSO is taking this genre forward with the inclusion of electronic string instruments and small ensembles specialising in modern genres, appealing to audiences of all ages.
British Army Band CatterickBrass Band2019CatterickOne of two Regular Army brass bands. The band was formed in 2019, bringing together musicians from the bands of The Royal Armoured Corps, The King’s Division and The Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.
British Army Band SandhurstSymphonic Wind Band2019SandhurstIt is a 43-piece symphonic wind band incorporating The Band of the Royal Logistic Corps and The Band of the Royal Corps of Signals. Its main roles include providing musical support at passing out parades in the surrounding areas, such as Army Training Centre Pirbright and Sovereign’s parades for the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Other engagements include dinner nights with smaller ensembles and supporting military sporting events.
British Army Band TidworthBrass Band2019TidworthIncorporates three bands: The Royal Artillery Band; The Band of the Corps of Royal Engineers; and The Band of the Adjutant General’s Corps.
British Army Band ColchesterSymphonic Wind Band2019ColchesterIncorporates The Band of The Parachute Regiment, The Band of the Army Air Corps and The Band of The Queen’s Division. The band’s main roles involve delivering musical support to the Army and the wider Defence community. The band undertakes a busy schedule of performances, including a full range of military and civilian engagements, both at home and abroad.
Corps Engagement TeamThe Corps Engagement Team are a small group of Army musicians dedicated to supporting potential applicants and gatekeepers in finding out more about careers in British Army music.

Army Reserve Bands

NameLocation (2018)Establishment (2018)
Honourable Artillery Company Regimental BandLondon35
The Band of the Royal YeomanryLondon35
Highland Band of the Royal Regiment of ScotlandPerth21
Lowland Band of the Royal Regiment of ScotlandEdinburgh21
The Band of the Royal Irish RegimentHolywood35
The Band of the Royal Regiment of FusiliersNewcastle upon Tyne21
The Royals Signals (Northern) BandDarlington35
The Lancashire Artillery BandBolton35
The Band of the Yorkshire RegimentHuddersfield21
The Band of the Duke of Lancaster’s RegimentLiverpool21
The Band of 150 Regiment Royal Logistics CorpsHull21
The Nottinghamshire Band of the Corps of Royal EngineersNottingham35
The Band of the Mercian RegimentWolverhampton21
The Band of the Royal Anglian RegimentPeterborough21
The Regimental Band and Corps of Drums of the Royal WelshNewport21
The Band of the Princess of Wales’s Royal RegimentCanterbury21
The Army Medical Service BandCamberley35
The Salamanca Band and Bugles of The RiflesExeter21
The Waterloo Band and Bugles of The RiflesAbingdon21
The Band and Corps of Drums of the Royal Gibraltar RegimentGibraltar29

Notes

  • In terms of ‘command’:
    • Army Reserve Bands came under their respective cap-badges in 2018.
    • In 2019, this changed to London District.

Regimental Music Groups

NameLocation (2018)
1st Battalion Grenadier Guards Corps of DrumsAldeshot
1st Battalion Coldstream Guards Corps of DrumsWindsor
1st Battalion Scots Guards Corps of DrumsAldershot
1st Battalion Irish Guards Corps of DrumsHounslow
1st Battalion Welsh Guards Corps of DrumsWindsor
1st Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment Corps of DrumsPaderborn
1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Corps of DrumsTidworth
1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment Corps of DrumsWoolwich
2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment Corps of DrumsDhekelia
1st Battalion Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment Corps of DrumsChester
1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment Corps of DrumsCatterick
2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment Corps of DrumsCatterick
1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment Corps of DrumsBulford
2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment Corps of DrumsCyprus
1 Royal Welsh Corps of DrumsTidworth
1 Rifles Bugle PlatoonChepstow
2 Rifles Bugle PlatoonLisburn
3 Rifles Bugle PlatoonEdinburgh
4 Rifles Bugle PlatoonAldershot
5 Rifles Bugle PlatoonBulford
1st Battalion Scots Guards Pipes and DrumsAldershot
1st Battalion Irish Guards Pipes and DrumsHounslow
Scots Dragoon Guards Pipes and DrumsLeuchars
Royal Dragoon Guards Pipes and DrumsWarminster
Queens Royal Hussars Pipes and DrumsPaderborn
Royal Tank Regiment Pipes and DrumsTidworth
19 Regiment Royal Artillery Pipes and DrumsTidworth
Royal Signals Pipes and DrumsEdinburgh
2 Scots Pipes and DrumsEdinburgh
3 Scots Pipes and DrumsInverness
4 Scots Pipes and DrumsCatterick
1 Royal Irish Pipes and DrumsTern Hill
1 Royal Gurkha Pipes and DrumsShorncliffe
2 Royal Gurkha Rifles Pipes and DrumsBrunei
10 Queens Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment Pipes and DrumsAldershot
3 Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment Corps of DrumsCanterbury
3 Royal Welsh Corps of DrumsCardiff
The Honourable Artillery Company Corps of DrumsLondon
6 Rifles Bugle PlatoonExeter
7 Rifles Bugle PlatoonReading
71 Engineer Regiment Pipes and DrumsLeuchars
32 Signals Regiment Pipes and DrumsEdinburgh
7 Scots Pipes and DrumsPerth
2 Royal Irish Pipes and DrumsLisburn
152 Fuel Supply Regiment Pipes and DrumsBelfast
154 Transport Regiment RLC Pipes and DrumsDunfermline
102 Battalion REME Pipes and DrumsNewton Aycliffe

Notes

  • Regimental Music Groups are commanded by their respective cap-badges.
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