Cape Town Military Tattoo 2010: The massed pipe bands

After the magnificent old Castle had been successfully defended gainst the attackers, it was time for the massed pipe bands to stride triumphantly into the arena. They appeared out of the swirling mists (courtesy of two smoke machines on either side of the Kat archway), their snare drums rattling and bass drums thumping, and with their bagpipes emitting that echoing hum that always sounds as though a swarm of angry hornets is about to launch a full-scale attack: their arrival is always a goosebump moment!

Out of the swirling mists of time...

The three bands were the Pipes and Drums of Cape Field Artillery (Facebook group), the Drums and Pipes of the Cape Town Highlanders and the Pipes and Drums of 1 Med Battalion, visiting us from Durban (Facebook group).

Here are the histories and descriptions of these three bands, as summarised in the program notes.

Pipes and Drums of Cape Field Artillery

“Cape Field Artillery is South Africa’s senior artillery regiment. It was founded in 1857, when infantrymen from the then Cape Town Rifles volunteered to replace Royal Garrison Artillery coastal gunners who had been hastily transferred to India. In its early years, the CFA was a double-hatted regiment – a mobile field artillery unit whose members also trained on the heavy ordnance in the coastal gun batteries.

The CFA has rendered yeoman service in virtually every war and campaign in South Africa’s military annals since then, sometimes far beyond these shores. For generations, its gunners have fired salutes to mark Cape Town’s great occasions, and the CFA Saluting Troop with its four immaculate 25-pounder guns is a familiar sight and sound in the Mother City.

The Saluting Troop also specialises in Tchaikovsky’s famous 1812 Overture, the only piece of classical music, which incorporates actual gunfire in its score. The troop has partnered the South African Army Band, Cape Town, in performing the 1812 Overture for many years, an intricate task, because the firing is closely synchronised with the music, but Capetonians never tire of hearing the piece.

The CFA also has an excellent pipe band under Pipe Major Staff Sergeant A. Imrie, which has taken part in all of the Cape Town Military Tattoos since 2003 and is in great demand.” (Program notes)

The Pipes and Drums of Cape Field Artillery

Drums and Pipes of Cape Town Highlanders

“The Cape Town Highlanders (CTH), a mechanized infantry regiment of the South African Army’s Reserve component, was established in 1885 by a group of patriotic Capetonians of Scottish descent. It has been going strong ever since, earning 22 battle honours in fighting South Africa’s wars and waging the peace, when needed: during the 1994 elections, the CTH turned out in full strength, every man a volunteer, for critically important election security duties.

The regiment was allied to the Gordon Highlanders for many years and is now one of only two regiments in the world still to wear the Gordon regimental tartan. The CTH Drums and Pipes (it retains the traditional Gordon’s nomenclature, instead of the more common “pipes and drums”) dates from 1885 and has accompanied the regiment to strange and sometimes awful places.

At the moment it has the best military pipe band in the country and has taken part four times in the famed Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The Pipe Major, Warrant Officer Class 2 C. Canning, is one of only two non-British Army pipers ever to perform as the iconic “Lone Piper” at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and in the 2008 Basel Tattoo in Switzerland.” (Program notes)

The Drums and Pipes of The Cape Town Highlanders

Pipes and Drums of 1 Medical Battalion Group

“The group was established in KwaZulu Natal (KZN), South Africa, as the Natal Volunteer Medical Corps in 1899.

It consisted primarily of the ambulance detachments of the local KZN units, which had been started earlier in 1895. In 1904, the group was renamed the Natal Medical Corps. 1 Field Ambulance and 17 Field Ambulance amalgamated in 1981 to form what is now known as 1 Medical Battalion. The unit has been wearing the MacKenzie Tartan since 1939.

The band is based in Durban, South Africa and consists primarily of civilians and Reserve Force members of the South African National Defence Force. They are also extremely proud of their run of three consecutive Grade 3 SA Champion of Champions titles from 2006 to 2008 until their promotion to Grade 2 in 2009.” (Program notes)

The Pipes and Drums of 1 Medical Battalion Group

The Pipe Major of the band is Thomas Fuller, and the Leading Drummer is Wayne Smythe.

“The Pipe band was formed in 1990 and wears a full kilted uniform. Members of the band have seen international duty in Hong Kong (1997). the Edinburgh Military Tattoo (2004 and 2006 on detatched duties to the Cape Town Highlanders), World Pipe Band Championships (2004) and the Russian Tattoo (2007, on detatched duties to the Transvaal Scottish).”(


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