From the earliest days the Regiment had drummers and a "Band of Music" from 1685. This comprised eight civilian musicians who were hired by the month by officers of the Regiment to provide music for the Changing of the Guard at St James' Palace. When, in 1785, the musicians were asked to perform at an aquatic excursion to Greenwich, they declined on the grounds that the performance was "incompatible with their several respectable and private engagements." This was too much for the officers who asked the Duke of York, Colonel of the Regiment, for a regular attested band. He agreed and from Hanover in Germany sent twelve musicians under the direction of Music Major C.F. Eley. The instrumentation consisted of two oboes, four clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, one trumpet and a Serpent. The date of the band's formation was May 16th, 1785.
In 1815, the total strength of the band was increased to twenty-two by the addition of flutes, key bugles and trombones. In the same year the band went abroad for the first time when it was ordered to Paris for duty with the Allied Army of Occupation, following the Battle of Waterloo. As was usual in the British Army at the time, the Regiment's early bandmasters were of German extraction. Christopher Eley (1785-1800), John Weyranch (1800-14), James Denman (1814-18), and Thomas Willman (1818-25). In 1835 the first British Bandmaster Charles Godfrey took over. This event anticipated the general replacement of foreign bandmasters in the Army by British musicians by about thirty five years, and it was under his baton that the foundation of the musical and military expertise of today began. In 1863 his son Frederick Godfrey took charge of the band, followed in 1880 by Cadwallader Thomas who retired in 1896. By the end of the nineteenth century the band had grown to thirty-five in number. Its importance had grown too; both within the Army and the British way of life. Queen Victoria decreed that all members of Household Division Bands would be known by the title of "Musician," as opposed to "Bandsmen" for the rest of the Army Bands.
In 1896 John MacKenzie Rogan took over as Director of music and it was he who ushered the band into the twentieth century. He was the first Bandmaster to achieve commissioned rank and was the outstanding military musician of his day. By 1900 the size of the band had grown to fifty-one musicians and during the years before World War I the band reached new heights of excellence in concert and on record, their first recording took place in a London hotel in 1898.
The Coldstream Guards Band became the first band to visit North America when it traveled to Canada in 1903, one of two western tours around that time. In 1916, with other regimental bands, the band performed in concert for the troops in northern France, and in Paris and Rome in 1919, after the end of the First World War. In 1920 when Robert Evans took over as Director of Music, the band had a strength of sixty-six. One of the duties he undertook was to take the Band to Coldstream, Scotland with the Regiment for the first time since 1660 to lay up colours. Throughout the 1920's the band continued to take part in state, ceremonial and a hectic round of public engagements all over the country, and as recording techniques improved, more fine records were produced. In 1926 the band again toured Canada, and on one occasion while in Calgary, they were transported in a fleet of Studerbaker limousines!
Listen to new releases from the Band of the Coldstream Guards.
In 1930 James Causley Windram became the Director of Music and under him the Band broadcast regularly on BBC radio. A more unusual engagement was to don uniforms of the Napoleonic period for the pre-war film "The Scarlet Pimpernel." In 1936 the band was present at St. James' Palace for the proclamation of King Edward VIII and the following abdication, for that of King George VI. At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 the familiar scarlet tunics were replaced by khaki and during the war the band did important work encouraging the morale of troops and civilians throughout the country.
It was on Sunday, June 18, 1944 that the greatest tragedy in the history of the Band occurred. The Band was playing in the Guards Chapel during Sunday morning service in Wellington Barracks, London, when it was struck by a German VI Flying bomb. Over 120 people were killed including the Director of Music, Major Windram, and five musicians. Despite this disaster the Band continued to function until the new director of Music, Captain Douglas Alexander Pope was appointed. One of his first duties was to follow the Allied forces to Europe after D-Day.
After the war the Band continued as it had done before with the usual round of state, court and ceremonial duties, plus the many varied private engagements both at home and abroad. It was in 1960 that the Band went to North America for a three month coast to coast tour, this was the first of what became a regular ten yearly event. The Band toured North America again in again in 1970,1981 and 1991. The Band has also toured regularly in Japan. In 1984 the Band moved into the newly completed Wellington Barracks and for the first time since the band was formed has official accommodation. The band was flown into Sarajevo in 1996 after the relief of a two year siege, to entertain and lift the spirits of the local population. The Coldstream Band continues to play in concert, when not involved in public duties and state ceremonial in London, and in June 2015, 200 years exactly after they deployed to Paris after the Allied victory at Waterloo, they entertained large crowds in Brussels at the 200th anniversary celebrations of the great battle, including the Waterloo Ball and the opening of a new visitor centre on the battlefield.