February 02, 2013

The 5 O’clock Tune

The British Army doesn’t already have a memorial to pipers and drummers killed in action over the country’s long history of wars? I guess I assumed that there was one somewhere, since there are so many tales of the heroism of courageous pipers, like George Findlater at the Heights of Dargai or Bill Millin at Normandy, who risked everything for the sake of motivating the troops with a tune. (And let’s not forget about the pipers and drummers killed by the English when they were fighting for an independent Scotland, but I digress.)

That there does not appear to be a record of pipers and drummers killed in conflict is also strange. After all, these soldiers were there, yes, as soldiers, but most of them carried a specific and important distinguishing role as pipers and drummers. There are probably records of orderlies killed in action, but none for pipers?

And the British Army won’t even contribute to a memorial? I can just hear it. “Well, if we do that then we’ll have to make one for orderlies, and then one for cooks, and then where does it end?”

Anyway, it’s all good. I hope enough funds are collected for a memorial cairn at Redford Barracks. But here’s a better proposal:

Build a memorial cairn for pipers and drummers killed in action, and erect it at Edinburgh Castle where so much piping history and teaching has occurred. And, like the traditional 1 O’clock Gun that’s fired from the Castle ramparts every afternoon of every day, create a tradition of a “5 O’clock Tune.” Every day of the year, like clockwork, an army piper appears at the cairn at 5 pm to play a lament.

What a great thing this would be for piping and the British Army. Hordes of tourists would collect at 5 o’clock for the daily tune. They can snap photos and perhaps even learn a little about piping and hear how a good Highland pipe sounds. The British Army can showcase how thoughtful it is, and shed positive light on one of its great traditions to, eventually, millions of people around the world.

“The 5 O’clock Tune.” The British Army can thank me later.


  1. What a great way of givi ng recognition. Pipers I believe have saved lives …like when ” Colonel Mad Mitch” took his troops into the Crater in Aden led by the pipe corps, and subsequently not a shot was fired. Just a wee example.I hope that this “proposal” may come to fruition and the we can all enjoy the memories of the roles our pipers and drummers played in the many conflicts over many many years

  2. This is a great idea. You are right that as soldiers these people have been honoured but to honour them as pipes and drummers would make it more special. I think of the movies where the pipers and drummers were out front playing through gunfire to inspire the troops.

  3. Spend money on the dead? They won’t even spend it on the living. This is an armed forces that refuses to grant retired Ghurkhas British citizenship and/or full pensions, even Falkland vets. Not thinking to recognise fallen pipers makes perfect sense in that context. Fodder.

  4. A few years ago, Jim McGillivray wrote a nice article on your site about the Pipers’ Memorial in Longueval, France. There is an “official” website but it is not well maintained. A shame because they listed ALL the pipers KIA in the Great War as well as histories of VC pipers from other wars. I did find a website that gives a thumbnail of the memorial:
    If France can honor pipers…(you can fill in the rest)….

  5. Not all forgotten ‘We will rember them”
    Name: GOLDIE, HUGH
    Initials: H
    Nationality: United Kingdom
    Rank: Piper
    Regiment/Service: Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
    Unit Text: 10th Bn.
    Age: 27
    Date of Death: 16/11/1947
    Service No: 3249952
    Additional information: Son of Peter and Rose Goldie, of Blackburn.
    Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
    Grave/Memorial Reference: East Extn. Grave V.399.



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