1 SCOTS Pipes & Drums ends

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1 SCOTS (The Royal Scots Borderers) has lost its pipes and drums component. The loss leaves the Royal Regiment of Scotland with only three regimental pipes and drums.

1 SCOTS’ few remaining pipers and drummers will be dispersed according to their preferences and career management priorities.

The Royal Regiment of Scotland is comprised of six battalions, numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7 SCOTS. 1 SCOTS’ pipers and drummers were part of Support Company and not specifically established as Pipes & Drums. By converting to Specialist Infantry Battalions in recent years, the whole of Support Company had been disestablished. 

In recent years, 1 SCOTS Pipes & Drums [P&D] gradually but steadily decreased in numbers as a result of an ongoing restructuring of the British Army. Latterly, the unit was relocated to the Pipes and Drums alongside 5 SCOTS (the former Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders regiment). 

1 SCOTS Pipes & Drums pictured in 2016.

1 SCOTS came into being following the amalgamation of the Royal Scots and the King’s Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB) in August 2006. The battalion was based at Dreghorn Barracks in Edinburgh until August 2014 when it was moved to Palace Barracks in Holywood, Northern Ireland. Latterly, the regiment has had to call on the services of Major Sinclair Memorial Pipe Band, a civilian band based in nearby Ballyclare, to play at ceremonies and parades.

The regiment recruits its soldiers mainly from Dumfries and Galloway, Edinburgh, the Lothians, Borders and parts of Lanarkshire. The battalion home headquarters and museums are based at Edinburgh Castle (for the Royal Scots) and Berwick (for the King’s Own Scottish Borderers).

In 2019, 1 SCOTS’ Pipes & Drums travelled to northern France to participate in the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. The unit last competed at the UK Pipe Band Championships in Northern Ireland that year.

The Pipe Major on disbandment is Pipe Major CSgt John Harvey (pictured). [Earlier we incorrectly stated it was Paul Burns – Editor].

Major (Retd) Lance ‘Spike’ Thornton of The King’s Own Scottish Borderers Association has written to ex-members of the regiment. He said: “During the re-rolling of 1 SCOTS into a Specialist Infantry Battalion (SpecInf Bn) there was no establishment created for a Pipes and Drums [P&D] platoon. The Commanding Officer tried to maintain a working band; however, due to the nature of the battalion’s role and deployments, this proved unsustainable. The decision was made some 18 months ago to move the P&D personnel to Balaklava Company – 5 SCOTS – in Edinburgh. This has also proved to be very difficult to manage as, once again, there is no formal establishment, and the pipers and drummers were effectively mis-employed on the black economy. 

“As a result, our pipers and drummers did not have a proper career path or appropriate career management. This was clearly very unsatisfactory for all concerned. Therefore, in order to provide the correct career management for the soldiers involved, it was recently proposed to the Colonel of the Regiment that the remaining P&D personnel be re-distributed to pipe bands around the other SCOTS battalions.

“In the week beginning February 15, 2021 the Colonel of the Regiment made the decision to disband the 1 SCOTS P&D platoon, with all remaining soldiers being posted to piping and drumming posts in 2 SCOTS, 3 SCOTS or 4 SCOTS, and they were able to select which Battalions to move to.

“This will inevitably mean that no items of KOSB piping and drumming uniform or accoutrements will be seen on parade again with a Regular band. This is very sad for us all who recall marching proudly behind the skirl of the pipes and the beat of the drum as they played Blue Bonnets [the regimental quick march].

The upside, however, is that our people will be properly employed and managed in P&D posts, and be able to enjoy the benefits of a piping or drumming career. Be assured that none of the others three SpecInf Bns have retained their Drums or Bugles Platoons, and so all of these battalions are in the same situation.

“All KOSB regimental property held by 1 SCOTS P&D will be checked and returned to Regimental HQ in Berwick where it will be properly secured and, as appropriate, incorporated into a suitable display.”

1 SCOTS P&D on parade in 2016.