Today marks the 90th anniversary of the first official day of the Battle of the Somme, which actually started with an action at Beaumont-Hamel. More than 57,000 soldiers – from the British side alone – were either killed or wounded on this day alone. The total would surpass 600,000 over the next five months, during which time about 10 kilometres of ground would be gained.
Remarkably, it was from the horror of the Great War that much of Highland piping’s greatest music was composed. This war, more than anything before, spread piping throughout the Commonwealth as a key aspect of the British Army. Armouries around the world still ring with pipes and drums, and we can, to a great degree, look to World War I as a major factor for today’s piping and drumming excellence beyond the UK.
If anyone has any thoughtfulness, “The Battle of the Somme” – one of the greatest pipe tunes made – will be played by a band for the crowd today at the All-Irish, at Kincardine, at Annan, at Embro, at Thornton, at Pugwash, at Round Hill, at Penticton.
We owe so much to those who served and sacrificed for what we have in piping and drumming today, 90 years on.