It would appear that prior to 1881 there were no real Regimental Marches, as we know them today. Regiments marched past to a tune, which was popular with the Commanding Officer or with the men; written by the Music Master or Band Sergeant of the day. In 1883, Regiments were ordered to select a Regimental March and told that it would be promulgated in Army Orders. Regiments had marched to a popular tune for a number of years and this in many cases was the march selected for the Regiment. Certain of our marches fall into this category, but still many mysteries remain as to why some of our former Regiments chose the particular march they did, and why other marches remain in use.
Marches of the 1st Battalion: Rule Britannia and Speed the Plough, Lilliburlero, The Duchess, The Young May Moon, God Bless the Prince of Wales.
Rule Britannia and Speed the Plough: Rule Britannia and Speed the Plough became the Regimental quick marches of the Royal Anglian Regiment on formation in 1964.
Rule Britannia was the quick march of the Royal Norfolk Regiment from 1891, when it supplanted The Young May Moon. The air was composed by Doctor Thomas Arne and first performed at Cliveden House in 1740 with words by Thompson and Mallet.
It was included as the finale of the opera “Alfred”, first performed in Dublin in 1744 when it was advertised as “a favourable Ode in honour of Great Britain”, beginning with the words, “When Britain first at Heaven’s Command arose from out the Azure Main”.
Speed the Plough was the quick march of all Battalions of the Suffolk Regiment and was based on a traditional Scottish folk song.
It is thought to be earlier than Rule Britannia and so far as the history of the Suffolk Regiment records it was the only quick march ever used by them.
Lilliburlero. Lilliburlero is the oldest of the marches played in the Battalion. The connection with the Battalion has an interesting historical basis since the words to the original air were written by Henry, Lord Wharton who was appointed to command the Regiment, which later became the 12th Foot, by William III in 1690.
The tune first appeared in print as a quick step in a music book published in 1686 titled “Choice New Lessons for Flute and Recorder”. Wharton’s words were a satirical anti-Papist propaganda aimed at the Earl of Tyrconnel, King James II’s Lieutenant-Governor in Ireland in 1688, the time of the Bloodless Revolution; according to Bishop Burnet this ” foolish ballad” had a strong influence on contemporary political developments.
The Duchess. The Duchess is now played to march on and march off the Colours.
Originally it was the quick march of the 2nd Battalion the Suffolk Regiment and on that Battalions disbandment was adopted in 1948 as the Salute to HRH Princess Margaret when she became Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment.
Before that time all Battalions of the Suffolk Regiment had also marched on their Colours to The Duchess; this makes a double basis for the adoption of this march.
The Young May Moon. The Young May Moon was the Regimental quick march of the Norfolk Regiment up until 1881, when it was supplanted by Rule Britannia. The old march remained in use for marching past in close column.
The Young May Moon is an old Irish dance tune, and became so named when the poet Thomas Moore set a love song to the air in 1807. It was played by the bands of many Regiments during the Peninsular War, as a popular contemporary tune. It was also the Regimental march of the Sherwood Foresters and of the Manchester Regiment.
God Bless the Prince of Wales. The march God Bless the Prince of Wales was customarily played in the Royal Norfolk Regiment at the end of Officers’ Mess Guest Nights, as the last item in the Band programme after the Regimental Marches. The custom is not recorded in writing in Band records, but it goes back in living memory well before the Second World War as a well-established tradition.
The probable basis for it is that HRH the Prince of Wales was closely associated with the Norfolk Regiment for many years before his coronation as King Edward VII and his assumption of the Colonelcy-in-Chief of the Regiment in 1907.
He presented Colours to the Regiment twice, and on the first occasion in 1887 referred to his “kinship with the Regiment from his connection of twenty-five years with his county to which it belonged”, and said he was sure “That in War the 1st Norfolk would always stand firm as a rock”.
Regimental Songs. A good sing song has always been very much a part of the soldiers life. It could be used to fill in the time on long troop moves and was always a good morale booster.
Most soldier songs were designed to shock or raise a laugh, and are therefore unfortunately unprintable. A soldier with good presentation skills and a memory for the words would find himself popular around the camp fire, however, for the majority of us, half of the first verse of an old personal favourite would be our limit! (See General in Memories.)
I have included this little rendering as it has been part and parcel of Battalion life for as long as I can remember.
Look at those Anglians,
Bloody great supermen,
Isn’t it grand boy’s to be one of them,
Let’s have a sing song,
Let’s have a bloody good time,
And always remember,
The longer you live,
The sooner you’ll bloody well die!
The language has been slightly watered down to protect the innocent, and the true version is usually delivered repeatedly after copious amounts of ale. A popular song for Vikings as being tone deaf creates little or no problem and any other lack of talent can be compensated for with bags of enthusiasm and volume.