“The Battle of the Somme,” “The Taking of Beaumont Hamel,” “The Heights of Casino,” “The Highland Brigade at Magersfontein,” “The Heights of Dargai,” “The Bloody Fields of Flanders” . . . there are dozens more great Highland pipe compositions that were inspired during wartime.
Our art is rich with music that should remind us of the sacrifices made, enabling us to freely play pipes and drums and discuss matters of piping and drumming without fear every time we play or hear them.
November 11th is a day when piping-rich nations collectively pause to think and appreciate. But all pipers and drummers should realize that we were given an extra gift because of these horrific conflicts – and remember with our music.
My grandfather survived the Battle of the Somme and to this day that tune still has a special place among those that I just like to play because they mean something special or just move me.
was busking in newcastle, uk once and a ww2 vet came up to me with tears in his eyes and thanked me. He told me I had reminded him of his of time in Germany, and whenever he heared the pipes he knew he was safe. Near brought a tear to my eye I tell you.
For me the “piping” connection and Remembrance/Veterans Day has a special meaning.
My late father’s US Army artillery battery was assigned to a British Unit in the early days of World War 2. 70 years ago this month, he was in the second wave of landing craft involved in the invasion of North Africa known as Operation Torch.
Although he had a Scottish/Irish sounding name, he was raised in Pennsylvania Dutch country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Aside from St. Patrick’s Day, no Celtic link or heritage was known, let alone celebrated.
Like most veterans, he never talked much about the war. It was not until I was an adult that my father revealed something very special.
God knows what one thinks about bouncing about in a landing craft about to put one’s life in harm’s way. As he got closer and could hear the distinct sounds of gunfire, he also heard bagpipes!
The sound “did” something to him. (I suspect many pipers know what I mean by the word “did.”) During those final minutes before the ramp went down, he promised himself if he made it through the invasion and the war, he would find a way to learn to play those magnificent bagpipes.
While stationed in post war Germany, he managed to visit with some of his British Army friends in England and bought a bagpipe record. Twenty years later, his ten year old son found the record, played it and the same “did” happened to him too.
My Dad never learned to play. But he made sure I learned and I will be forever grateful to that lone piper on the beach in North Africa.
Thank you, Andrew, for reminding all your readers of the deep and everlasting debt of gratitude we owe our veterans. A special thanks for the piping link which I had not made until today.
My dad was on the first wave on Operation Torch in north Africa. He was in the 10th Battalion Combat Engineers in the Third Infantry Division which landed at Fedala …and had the “scenic tour” all the way through northern Italy. He also spoke of the highland pipes.
Last weekend, I piped at a church in a small town for the Veterans Day observation here in Arkansas.
Small world …and smaller without him and so many of his generation in it.
A good day to rematch the “Devil’s Brigade” again.
In the 80’s, I played for the Courtenay Legion Pipe Band on Vancouver Island on the west coast of Canada. The Legion liaison officer was Heinz Gootman. (spelling??) He was a German who had been with British intelligence during the second world war in North Africa. At the time, he was with a British armoured unit. He said that one morning, in the predawn, they were waiting to go into battle. He was sitting in the back of a tank, and over the noise of the engine, he could hear this strange sound. So he stuck his head up out of the tank to look around, and there standing between every 2 tanks, was a piper playing away. From that moment he was hooked.