The History of the

4th and 7th Royal Tank Regiments


Annex B The History of the Pipes and Drums 1972 – 2010

By 1971 the Fourth was manned predominantly by Scotsmen.

  • This was a direct result of an Army Board Directive in 1957 that all recruiting for 4 RTR should be from Scotland.
  • There was an increasingly felt need to foster Scottish manifestation, both as a recognition of the spirit of the Regiment and to facilitate recruiting in Scotland.
  • This need had been fuelled by the attempt in 1966 by the Pipes and Drums of the Cameronians to transfer in their entirety to the Fourth when their parent Regiment amalgamated. After much heart-searching this had been vetoed by the Cameronian Colonels.

Two key decisions were therefore taken by the Regiment in November 1971.

  • It was decided to seek to take a tartan into limited use.
  • It was decided to seek to recruit a pipe sergeant with a view to creating a Regimental Pipes and Drums.
Kilravock Castle

On 22 January 1972 the Commanding Officer, Lt Col L.A.W.New, approached Elizabeth Rose, a family friend, the 25th Head of Clan Rose of Kilravock whose family seat was Kilravock Castle near Inverness. He asked her to give the Regiment permission to take her Hunting Rose Tartan into use.

Elizabeth Rose agreed the request to allow use of her Clan Rose Hunting Tartan. She signed this formal letter on the first of February 1972. This action was thereafter formally authorised by Lord Lyon of Scotland. We now had the Tartan. The next more ambitious step was to create the Pipes and Drums.
Elizabeth Rose Letter Crest Lord Lyon of Scotland Pipes and Drums Tartan

The use of the tartan was welcomed within the Regiment and there was soon appetite for more. Before taking the next step – the recruitment of a qualified military piper – a report was submitted on these initiatives to the Regimental Colonel at RHQ RTR and he in turn informed the Colonels Commandant in a letter dated 21 February 1972.

As there was no apparent opposition that next more ambitious step was taken.

For some months the Regiment had been attempting to “poach” a well-qualified Pipe Sergeant from one of the Scottish regiments.

One possible candidate was Pipe Sergeant Elder of the RSDG. He could see that he was not destined to become Pipe Major of the RSDG but it was pointed out that he could, in due course, become Pipe Major of 4 RTR. He agreed to transfer as a crewman sergeant in April 1972.

The intention was to insinuate him into the Regiment and to build a Regimental Pipes and Drums around him.

Elder dressed as a pipe sergeant within the Regimental lines; but otherwise, especially when we had official visitors, he dressed as a tank sergeant.

Despite the Fourth’s caution, the GOC Scotland heard about both the tartan and the Elder transfer. His voice was raised in Scotland in total opposition to a relatively young Sassenach regiment attempting to adopt Scottish traditions. Doubts were similarly expressed by some senior figures south of the Border. Actually it was rather more direct than that; the CO was told by the Colonels Commandant in writing on 28 July.

“On no account are you to proceed with your proposals. By all means have as many pipers as you like playing at concerts or in the canteen but you must never have one on parade. It would be as offensive to Royal Tank Regiment tradition as it would be to Scottish regiments.”

This was a major blow, not least in terms of man-management; Sgt Elder had forfeited his career with RSDG; the Regiment, anticipating the recognition of its undeniable “Scottish ness” felt frustrated. It was evident that we had to be very patient, while advancing more discreetly towards our objective.

  • The Regiment declined to abandon the initiative
  • Sgt Elder refused to lose heart.
  • Dressed as a piper of Clan Rose he delighted the Regiment by his playing at mess nights etc.
  • The Officers, Warrant Officers and Sergeants continued to be enthusiastic and strongly supportive of the initiative.

Pipe Sergeant Elder

On 20 November 1972 the Regiment held a service of reconciliation and “farewell to Germany” in the church in Bergen-Belsen. Pipe Sergeant Elder took part, dressed as a Piper of Clan Rose.

In January 1973 the Regiment moved to Catterick and Berlin.

There had been no repercussions from the Bergen-Belsen Church parade, which had been attended by Comd 7 Armd Bde, himself a senior RTR officer. In mid April 1973 the Commanding Officer felt sufficiently confident to issue Pipe Sergeant Elder with formal instructions to form the Pipes and Drums. The question of dress was for the moment left to one side and thus the direct order from RTR RHQ was not ignored.

The Commanding Officers’s formal instructions included two major milestone targets – the Pipes and Drums were to be ready to play formally in front of the Regiment within eighteen months and to be ready to play for our Colonel in Chief within four years.

In the event both were achieved. The second and more ambitious target was reached in 1977 when the Pipes and Drums took a prominent part in HM the Queens 25th Anniversary Mounted Review at Sennelager. The Pipes and Drums also played at The Edinburgh Tattoo within five years and were recognised by the Army Board within six.

But back to early days… In June 1973 the Edinburgh Branch of the Old Comrades presented the first pipe banner. The Scottish manifestations continued to please the Regiment. When Major Brian Coombes (OC B Sqn) married Alana Dudley, a daughter of the Regiment, the tartan and the Piper were in evidence.
Edinburgh Branch of the Old Comrades Major Brian Coombes (OC B Sqn) marries Alana Dudley

On 1 August 1973 Colonel and Mrs New took Pipe Sergeant Elder to Kilravock Castle where he met and played for the Head of Clan Rose.

Having the Rhine Staff Band at Catterick provided many opportunities for Pipe Sgt Elder to play alongside them.

Sgt McMinn, Director of Music Capt Wright, Band Sgt Maj Pearce, Pipe Sgt Elder

Kilravock Castle Rhine Staff Band at Catterick

4th/7th Reunion 1973

On 8 September 1973 Pipe Sergeant Elder, dressed as a Piper of Clan Rose, played “Amazing Grace” on parade when the Rhine Staff Band Beat Retreat during the 4th/7th Reunion. Among those present were some of our most distinguished senior officers. It could have been seen as an act of defiance; mercifully it was not.

Having waited a few weeks after the Reunion the CO felt ready to take the next step.

  • He informed Pipe Sergeant Elder that if progress continued, and he passed his Tank B1 Tradesman Tests he would be promoted Pipe Major.
  • Major Gordon Gray, OC ‘G’ Squadron, applied his specialist skills to devising a regimental uniform for the steady trickle of pipers and drummers.
  • Pipe Sergeant Elder began to send enthusiasts from the Regiment to the Army piping school at Brig o’ Don.

Simon Dyer picture

In his new rig, researched and designed by Major Gordon Gray (OC G Sqn) in 1973, this is what the Pipe Major would eventually look like. The artist is Simon Dyer.

One of the first appearances of the Pipes and Drums

One of the first appearances of the Pipes and Drums; Pipe Major Elder dressed as a Piper of Clan Rose, the remainder are in No 1 Dress.

Pipes and Drums in kilted dress

The First appearance of the Pipes and Drums in kilted dress, Catterick 1974.

Pipe Major Elder plus

The Pipes and Drums in 1975 – Pipe Major Elder plus

seven pipers and four drummers.

Maurice Johns, Thomas Stewart (Tam), Tom Kelly, Doug Eskdale, John Low, Richard Grimshaw Rab Cook, Joe Clark, Pipe Major Elder, Wullie Davidson,Bob Smith

The Band in 1976

The Band in 1976 with Lt Col Cocking, Pipe Major Elder and Major Doble.

The Pipes and Drums with the Alamein Band playing in the Corn Market in Belfast

The Pipes and Drums with the Alamein Band playing in the Corn Market in Belfast.

The Pipes and Drums take part in the Sennelager Review, June 1977

The Pipes and Drums take part in the Sennelager Review, June 1977, in the presence of our Colonel-in-Chief.

1978 Colonel Mike Rose

1978 Colonel Mike Rose ‘at one with the Pipes and Drums’ as he celebrated his 20th year in the Regiment with a lunch (clearly a good one) in the Officers Mess.

1979 the Pipes and Drums

By 1979 the Pipes and Drums were, according to the Army’s Director of Bagpipe Music, (Capt Pitkeathly) making very good progress towards the goals set in May 1973. 4 RTR establishment was annotated to show three crewmen as pipers.

Thereafter P and B kit could be indented for.

Pipe Major Elder leads the 4 RTR Pipes and Drums as they march through Arras

Pipe Major Elder leads the 4 RTR Pipes and Drums as they march through Arras.

In June 1981 Pipe Major Elder, awarded the BEM in the Queen’s Honours, handed over to Pipe Sgt Harden.

Sadly the Clan Rose Dancers (trained by Pipe Major Harden) were disbanded in 1982 when the Regiment left BAOR.

Clan Rose Dancers

By December 1982 the full-time members of the Pipes and Drums were of high quality:

Pipe Maj Harden, Sgt Macey, Cpls Mc Sweeney, Dunlop. Gregson, McCann, L/Cpls Hart, Finlay, Johnstone, Keenan, McColl, More, Townsley, Marshall, McGrattan and Hawkins.

In 1983 Pipe Major Harden received his BEM from GOC SW District, Maj Gen Mike Gray (late Para). In 1982 Pipe Sgt Ian Macey had major wins in senior piping competitions.
Pipe Major Harden Pipe Sgt Ian Macey

The Pipes and Drums took part for the first of many times in the Edinburgh Military Tattoo in August 1983.

Edinburgh Military Tattoo in August 1983 Edinburgh Military Tattoo in August 1983 1984 News Article
The Pipes and Drums led by Pipe Major Harden BEM played at the 4/7th Reunion in April 1985.

Pipe Major Harden BEM

The Pipes and Drums played at the Consecration of Standards on 12 July 1985.

Consecration of Standards 1985

Pipe Major Harden played at the Manx open-air Parliament, the Tynwald, in 1986.

Manx open-air Parliament, the Tynwald, in 1986

Pipe Major Harden and Piper Nicholson took part in the July 1987 Tynwald Ceremony. HRH Princess Margaret stayed at Government House for four days. The Pipers played beneath her window each morning.

July 1987 Tynwald Ceremony

In 1987 the Pipes and Drums played at the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance in the Albert Hall in London and were seen by some 23 national Television audiences around the World.

1987 News Article

On 30 November 1987 Cpl Callum Townsley played for the Queen at a Governors’ private dinner party at the Royal Hospital Chelsea. L to R General Boswell (Guernsey), Admiral Pillar (Jersey), HM the Queen, HRH Prince Philip and General New (Isle of Man). Cpl Townsley remained in the Regiment until 1993 but continued to play thereafter, becoming a member of the Grade One Vale of Atholl Pipe Band.

The Queen 1987
How far we had come from the difficult days. Here GOC Scotland, Lieutenant General Scott-Barrett presents the Sands Skean Dhu to Piper Davidson. A source of pride in the Regiment.
GOC Scotland, Lieutenant General Scott-Barrett A source of pride in the Regiment
The Pipes and Drums at Kilravock Castle.

The Pipes and Drums at Kilravock Castle

Elizabeth of Kilravock loving it.

Elizabeth of Kilravock loving it

Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery

The Pipes and Drums with the RTR Staff Bands on Horse Guards as the Royal Tank Regiment celebrates the distinction, obtained by Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery, of Parading at the Cenotaph and marching along the Mall and Whitehall every year on the Sunday after Armistice Sunday.

Cyprus 1991

Cyprus 1991.
Cpl Townsley

In 1994 the Band celebrated their 21st Anniversary. Central front row, Pipe Major Hunter, Lieutenant Colonel Peter Gilchrist, Major General Sir Laurence New and Major David Eccles. The Pipes and Drums 1996, now the pride of 1 RTR.
Col Ian Rodley. Pipe Major Hunter and
Drum Major M Gilliland.
In 1994 the Band celebrated their 21st Anniversary The Pipes and Drums 1996
This is not the end of the story. The Pipes and Drums of the Fourth live on as a visible memorial of the Fourth and a matter of pride for the new First. Here we see some members of the P and B in Iraq in May 2003 thirty years after their formal founding. And here taking part in our final Fourth Seventh reunion Drum Head Service at Arras in May 2010 thirty seven years after the founding of the Pipes and Drums.
members of the P and B in Iraq in May 2003 Fourth Seventh reunion Drum Head Service at Arras in May 2010

The last hurrah

The Pipes and Drums, now a highly valued part of the Royal Tank Regiment are a poignant reminder of the Fourth and Seventh, no longer part of the Order of Battle. At our “Last Hurrah” veterans Keegan and Finlay ensure that Piper Douglas doesn’t dry up.

Almost fifty years since the formal commissioning of the Pipes and Drums in mid May 1973 ,their successors played a significant part in the funeral of our late Colonel-in-Chief, as these images show.

The detachment during rehearsals at Windsor. Pipe Major Thomson second from the right front rank.
Birdcage Walk on the march to the Abbey – centre front Lcpl Stephens and to his immediate left Tpr Bowtell front. The Long Walk to the Castle – PM Thomson on the far right.

Wellington Barracks shortly before the initial march to Westminster Abbey. L to R,PM Thomson, LCpl Bowtell, Tpr Boniwell, Tpr Skelton, LCpl Brandt, Cpl Green,  LCpl Catterall, Tpr Brown, Tpr Smart and LCpl Stephens