As the British Army began to expand following the outbreak of the Great War, King George V readily agreed to a suggestion that the Principality should be represented in his Brigade of Guards. The regiment was formed in February 1915 and a few weeks later the City of Cardiff “wished to have the honour and privilege of presenting a Band to the Regiment of Welsh Guards” and so purchased its first set of instruments. The band began to form later that year with Mr. Andrew Harris appointed as the bandmaster. It made it first public appearance at the King's Guard Mounting on St. David's Day 1916 and took part in a Grand Welsh Patriotic Meeting held at the London Opera House that evening.
Later in 1916 the band sailed for France to spend three months with the Guards Division on the Western Front, where its music helped to sustain morale amidst the unspeakable horrors of the Great War. During this period, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards returned from the front line for a rest period and found the band waiting to meet them and lead them for the last two miles back to the village of Meault; quite a dramatic moment as these tired and exhausted men heard their own band and their regimental march, The Rising of the Lark, for the first time.
During the Second World War the band’s music again helped to raise national morale during the day, while its members were used on fire-watching duties at night. In 1940 it became the first service band to appear on the BBC’s ‘Music While You Work’ and played a total of 65 times on the programme, including a performance in 1943 by the dance band, raised to enhanced standards of excellence by members of the Geraldo Orchestra who had been conscripted into the band.
The band has proved one of the country’s finest ambassadors and has made three ‘coast to coast’ tours of North America, giving around 70 performances in different cities in as many days. It has made two visits to play at the Canadian National Exhibition as well as undertaking numerous engagements in Texas and countries throughout Europe. One of the most rewarding trips came in 2002 with a ten-day visit to join 1st Battalion Welsh Guards in Banja Luka, Northern Bosnia, where their appearance in scarlet tunics and bearskins made a huge impact in what was still a war zone, helping the British to win over the hearts and minds of the local population.
Throughout its proud history the band has taken its music to Wales on a regular basis, whether for parades, concert tours or broadcasts, including the largest ever live Songs of Praise which was broadcast from the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on 2nd January 2000. It formed the backbone of the massed bands at each of the magnificent Cardiff Tattoos held between 1963 and 1987 and has given joint concerts with all Wales’s great male voice choirs. The band’s recording history dates from 1916 and the age of 78rpm, right up to recent times with ‘A Royal Tribute’ released in 2011 which reached the top positions of the classical charts.
Amongst the recent highlights, in 2011 the band was in the Forecourt of Buckingham Palace as The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge returned from their wedding, and in Westminster Hall when President Obama addressed Parliament. The following year it played in St. Paul’s Cathedral when Her Majesty attended the service to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee, and was heard later that year at a number of Olympic Games venues including the closing ceremony, while in 2013 it was back at St. Paul’s for the Funeral of Baroness Thatcher.
Listen to new releases from the Band of the Welsh Guards.