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The Pipes of War
The Pipes in the War, 1914-1918 - Galipoli


In Gallipoli, as on the Western front, pipers added lustre to their reputation ; and incidents which occurred to some of them showed that they were stout fighting men even after their pipes were put out of action.

The nature of the terrain generally precluded the more spectacular duty of playing their units to the attack, and the heavy casualties in the force and the constant demand for men resulted in their being frequently employed in the ranks; nevertheless, several cases did occur of company pipers acting as such.

On 12iath July, 1916, when the 6th H.L.I. captured three lines of Turkish trenches, Pipers W. Mackenzie and M'Niven played at the head of their companies; M'Niven was killed, and Mackenzie, putting down his pipes, took part in the fighting with a Turkish shovel and did great execution.

On the same day the pipers of the 7th H.L.I. led their battalion into action, and only one of them was wounded. Of these men one, Piper Kenneth MacLennan, was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal "for playing his pipes during the attack and advancing with the line after his pipes had been shattered by shrapnel, and heartening the wounded under fire." Another, Piper Cameron, played his company over three lines of trenches, with a revolver hanging on his wrist, and earned a mention in despatches; and Piper Macfarlane played through two bayonet charges until two of his drones were blown off by shell fragments.

Writing of the fighting on 12th July, a wounded officer writes:

"The sound of the pipes undoubtedly stirred them on, a piper belonging to each of the two battalions, 5th Argylls and 7th H.L.I., having mounted the parapets of their own trenches, and there in full danger played their comrades on to victory."

In the attack on Achi Baba there was no opportunity for pipers as such, though Pipe Major Andrew Buchan played the 4th Royal Scots "over the top," and, as an officer writes "fearless of all danger went along the line and did much to hearten the men." Buchan was killed.

Of the pipers of the 5th Royal Scots none survived the early days of the fighting on the Peninsula. An officer of the regiment wrote that they "gloriously upheld the traditions established long ago." In the Achi Baba fighting four were killed and four wounded.

Casualties in action and by disease took heavy toll of the pipers of all these battalions, and after a few months on the Peninsula the pipe bands temporarily ceased to exist.

Even before the withdrawal of the force from Gallipoli it was found that so many casualties had occurred among the pipers of the battalions engaged that the bands were well on the way to extinction. Consequently, under the able management of Colonel Maclean of Pennycross a divisional band numbering twelve pipers and six drummers—all that remained— was organised out of the wreck of the pipe bands of the 52nd Division. That hand, though never sent into action, individually or collectively played frequently under shell fire; and "Hey Johnnie Cope" could be heard quite distinctly every morning in the firing line up to within a few days of the evacuation.

The divisional band served on the Desert front in Egypt, and then accompanied the Division right into Palestine, playing the leading battalion, the 4th K.O.S.B. 's, over the frontier to Blue Bonnets over the Border."

Later on, more pipers and more Scottish units appeared; and so we find the 2nd London Scottish being played into Jerusalem, and "Dumbarton's Drums" sounding at the head of the Royal Scots as they took over the guard on the Holy Sepulchre—as is the right of 'Pontius Pilate's Bodyguard."


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