Explore the musical history of our Regiments

Musicians have played a part in armies since Classical times. The forebears of the 3rd Dragoon Guards and the Carabiniers, as regiments of horse, originally had trumpeters and kettledrummers, as does the Household Cavalry today. The Scots Greys, as dragoons, had ‘hautbois’ – an ancestor of the modern oboe with a strident tone – and infantry pattern side drums which, when the drummers were mounted, were carried suspended from the saddle in front of the drummer’s left knee. In 1696 it is recorded that the Greys had 16 hautbois and 16 drummers and that they were wearing a special uniform. Hautbois were replaced by trumpets in 1759.

In full dress uniform the Regiment’s bandsmen and trumpeters are particularly distinctive since they wear a crimson plume which extends over the crest of the bearskin cap. Plumes of this size originated in the Scots Greys’ band in about 1830.

[SCOTS DG Pipe Major A. J. Crease M.B.E, B.E.M, playing the pibroch: ‘Chille Chriosd’ followed by The Pipes and Drums of SCOTS DG performing ‘Drummers Call: Salute to Charlie Stewart‘ at Castle Howard, 1978.]

Military Bands

All three regiments had their own military bands during the 19th century. On amalgamation in 1922, the bands of the 3rd Dragoon Guards and 6th Dragoon Guards merged.

The band of The Royal Scots Greys continued until 1971 when the regiment’s amalgamation with the 3rd Carabiniers led to the two regiments’ bands forming the Military Band of The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers and Greys). This Regimental band continued until 1995 when it was disbanded due to Government financial cuts.

[The Pipes and Drums of SCOTS DG performing ‘Amazing Grace‘ at Castle Howard, 1978.]

The Pipes and Drums

Cavalry regiments do not traditionally have pipe bands. However, The Royal Scots Greys established an unofficial ‘pipe band’ while serving in India in the 1920s. It was not until 1946, upon the disbandment of 52nd Lowland Division, that a ‘pipe band’ again became part of the Greys, when eight pipers and six drummers of the Lothians and Border Horse under Pipe Major Gray were posted to the regiment.

In 1947 the pipe band was officially recognised by the War Office and King George VI, colonel-in-chief, sanctioned the wearing of the Dress Royal Stewart tartan by the Greys’ pipers. Today, every member of the Pipes and Drums is also a fully operational soldier.

Musical innovation, commercial success and playing on the frontline 

First commercial musical success for the Regiment occurred following the amalgamation of 3rd Carabiniers and The Royal Scots Greys in 1971. Traditionally, the military bands and the pipes and drums of the British Army never played together but the bands of The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards did just that for the 1971 album entitled ‘Farewell to the Greys’. The album included the bands’ own version of ‘Amazing Grace’, a co-orchestration which, when pressed as a single record, had sold over 1 million copies by April 1972. Eventually, the bands earned eight ‘gold discs’ for this innovation in military music.

Further albums were recorded in the 1980s, with ‘Parallel Tracks’ appearing, to great acclaim, in 2001. ‘Spirit of the Glen’ followed in 2007 and then, in 2008/09, ‘Spirit of the Glen: Journey’ appeared: it was recorded while the Regiment was on an operational posting to Basra in Iraq, which makes that album the first musical recording by a regiment on active service. ‘Spirit of the Glen: Journey’ won the Classical Brit. Awards 2009 ‘Album of The Year’.

The tracks on ‘Spirit of the Glen: Journey’ that were recorded in Basra were ‘Abide With Me’, ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind’, ‘In Flanders Fields’ and ‘For the Fallen’. The piper playing ‘For the Fallen’ was recorded live, in the open and at the base where the Regiment was stationed: the hum of Basra can be heard in the background. In a moment evocative of the Oscar-winning score of the film ‘Atonement’, ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind’ was sung by men from the Regiment in Basra. The album also features recordings of ‘Greensleeves’, ‘Unchained Melody’ and ‘Auld Lang Syne’.

The CD booklet contains photographs from Basra and the CD is enhanced by filmed footage showing the recording in Basra.

Purchase a copy of the CD online in our shop!