"OH, LISTEN TO THE BAND" - a Rudyard Kipling speech

Military band of the 15th Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade at Enoggera Camp, Queensland, 1914

On the 24th March 1915 The Northern Miner (Charters Towers) published an article by Arthur Mason, London representative of the Sydney Morning Herald. Mr Mason reported a meeting at Mansion House on the 2nd February, convened by the Lord Mayor of London, at which a number of eminent writers, actors and musicians gave speeches, including five greats of British music - Edgar, Parry, Parratt, Stanford and Bridge.

from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article79080358

from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article79080358


Mr Rudyard Kipling was the principle speaker, and he took the opportunity to argue the case for bands as a necessary accompaniment to the Empire’s military preparations. Mr Kipling argued for ‘an end of the present curious arrangement by which our soldiers go marching here, there, and everywhere….miles of training preparation with no sound of music save that of their own singing and whistling’, and he urged the value of the band as a recruiting agent.

Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling

In Kipling’s view, ‘a few drums and fifes in the battalion mean at least five extra miles in a route march’. He suggested that ‘a band can swing a battalion back to quarters happy and composed in its mind, no matter how wet or tired its body may be. Even when there is no route marching, the mere come and go, the roll and flourishing of drums and fifes around the barracks, are as warming and cheering as the sight of a fire in a room’.

Mr Mason commented on the eloquence with which Kipling spoke, and included a number of other quotes from his speech: ‘No one, not even the adjutant, can say for certain where the soul of the battalion lives, but the expression of that soul is most often found in the band’.

Page 22 of the Queenslander Pictorial, supplement to The Queenslander, 5 June, 1915

‘Twelve thousand men whose lives are pledged to each other must have some common means of expression, some common means of conveying their thoughts of themselves and their world. The band feels the mood, and interprets the thoughts’

‘We are a tongue-tied brood at the best. The bands can declare on our behalf, without shame and without shyness, something of what we all feel’.

Procession of soldiers from the 42nd Battalion, Brisbane, 1916

Robyn Hamilton - QANZAC100 Content Curator


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