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Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Salvation Army Household Troops Band 1887-1893

The War Cry, dated March 12, 1887, carried a notice requesting volunteers to join a special Band which was to be organised for continuous service. Apart from the provision of food and clothing, no salary was offered. Despite this, within a month 25 men had been accepted for service. They met for the first time in the officers' dining room at Clapton S.A. Congress Hall under the leadership of Staff-Captain Harry Appleby. The first band practice was held in the basement of the Training Home at Clapton; so congested was this space that it was like playing in a box!

On June the Household Troops Band was ready for the road. Their first uniforms were made up of oddments from a military store, with brass S's fixed to the shoulder-straps of the tunics, which had belonged to Her Majesty's Rifle Brigade. These early uniforms, complete with knapsack and military blankets, were unpractical in the extreme, and were soon replaced by made-to-measure uniforms designed for the Band.

The Household Troops Band's first tour was in the Midlands; it lasted six weeks, during which they took part in Birmingham's celebrations for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. At Luton, the gallery of the hall was filled with girls from a local factory, who had paid twopence each to watch the Household Troops Band eat! Bugle call at 5 a.m. would waken the bandsmen every day, and the men considered themselves fortunate if they reached their billet by eleven p.m.

Some eight months later, the band embarked on the s.s. Princess, to conduct a three-week campaign in Ireland. In Belfast, the police decreed that the band's procession had obstructed a tram-car and a milk cart, and arrested the Bandmaster and four bandsmen. They were summoned, and fined a shilling -. or a day in prison. They chose the latter.

The Household Troops Band's first overseas tour, in 1888, was at the request of Commissioner Thomas Coombs, who was then in charge of Army work in Canada. Travelling steerage, thirty men set sail from Liverpool, aboard the s.s. Polynesia, arriving in Montreal some ten days later. After five months in Canada, the Band crossed the border into the United States, where it campaigned in the New England states. In just two months, the meetings brought in £750, as well as paying the cost of the return fare to England. The Band journeyed home aboard the s.s. Aurunia, this time travelling second class! It was to be sixty-four years before another Salvation Army band from England crossed the Atlantic Ocean.

During the Band's tour of Canada and the United States, in January 1889, a Household Troops No. 2 Band was formed, and each Band campaigned separately for two years, at the end of which they united for a tour of The Netherlands. On July 25, 1891, the united band visited Margate, in Kent, where for three months it played twice daily on the beach. The Band proved so popular that railway companies advertised their excursions, advising Londoners to "Go to merry Margate, enjoy the health-giving air, and hear the Household Troops Band!" When, after a life of just six years, the Household Troops Band was disbanded, in 1893, it was estimated that 126 men had marched in its ranks. The leaders, apart from Bandmaster Appleby, were Bandmaster Webber, who led the No.2 Band, and Bandmaster Caleb Burgess, who took over the combined Band whilst Harry Appleby was away on special service with General William Booth.

One of the Household Troops Band was Adjutant Harry Green, quite a character. He was a gifted pianist, and on many programmes featured as a 'comic singer'. accompanying himself at the piano. Some time later, he was appointed to Canada, and joined the Canadian Staff Band. Harry was one of those many bandsmen who lost their lives in the sinking of the s.s. Empress of Ireland, in 1914.

The first Troops band returned home to Britain in 1891 and later members of both bands amalgamated. Then six years after it all started, in 1893, the band was dissolved to make way for a new band, and it was from the ashes of The Household Troops Band that The International Headquarters Staff Band (now known as The International Staff Band) was formed.

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