Alan Brookes
                                                                                    Web Master Peter McCarthy BEM
A Member of
The Yorkshire Corps of Drums
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As a boy, I joined the 16th Manchester Boy’s Brigade Company, in 1969, where I learnt the drum and bugle. In common with most bugle bands, we learnt by the’ear’ method, and this showed its limitations when massing with other bands. Despite the BB having a bugle band manual, of standard tunes, there were always variations between bands, and of course, each thought their version was the correct one. 

Sometime in the late 1970s, as an officer I attended a bugle band instruction course at the BB training centre, Broomley Grange. This encouraged me to improve my music reading skills and showed me other sources of music outside the BB.  I taught drumming mostly, but when required I would also instruct buglers.

I always enjoyed participating in the battalion band contest. The Manchester competition was always half set tune (from the book) and free choice; so this deterred those bands who were none readers. I was pleased to be asked to judge the drumming, on two occasions. Thus I had gone full circle, taking part as a boy an instructor and a judge.    

The BB is a Christian youth organisation formed in Scotland, by an officer, from what was later to become the TA. It adopted military methods of training and a semi-military uniform.

In 1885, only two years after the movement was formed, a corps of drums was started by the 1st Glasgow Company, and trained by an ex-army band sergeant. The number of corps grew with the movement, until there was a total of 161 corps in 1894.  Not all corps was using five key flutes however. One key flutes and fifes were also advertised in BB publications.
The leadership of the BB encouraged the formation of bands of any type, as good public relations for the organisation.  The corps of drums was particularly recommended, for its low cost to set up and maintain, and the relative ease to train boys.

‘Bugle’ corps of drums were  starting  up at about the same time,  but  only grew slowly.  In 1895, there were only 41 corps, but by 1900, they began to overtake the ‘flute’ corps of drums, to become the most popular type of band in the BB. Soon the leadership was recommending the ‘bugle’ corps of drums for similar reasons as before.

Most photographs of early BB corps of drums show the typical side drum in use, was the shallow, brass shell type, with rod tension, although there were some rope tension drums in use later on. Both types gave way to modern rod tension, from the 1960s.

In the 1880s, the BB began issuing, army style proficiency badges for attaining set standards on a given instrument.  These were cloth at first, but from 1908, small white metal badges, in the shape of a rope tension drum or corded bugle horn, were issued. Flautists were awarded a lyre badge.

To encourage standardisation and uniformity of playing, a handbook for ‘bugle bands’ was published in 1912. Others followed, improved, revised and expanded, in 1923, 1959 and 1992. Nothing was produced however, for ‘flute’ corps of drums.

The last statistics for BB bands, was published in 1968/69, and showed 1,052 ‘bugle’ but only 2 ‘flute’ corps of drums.

Alan BrookesA Member of
The Yorkshire Corps of DrumsIn the 1990s, work and family commitments forced me to resign as a BB officer, and I took a break for a few years. I returned as an instructor in 2nd Altrincham Company, moving to 1st Sale, then my current company 5th Manchester.

At about this time, I helped to form the Manchester Steadfast Association bugle band.
Membership was a mixture of  ‘old boys’, former and current instructors. The main impetus was the international convention of Steadfast Associations a year later. Our ‘Old Boys’ bugle band, performed at the convention and led the delegates on a church parade through Manchester.  The band continued to meet for some years after, but it only exists in a training form today.

I obtained the ‘Drummers Handbook’ and in 1994 started to learn the Bb flute. I joined the Yorkshire corps of drums in 2001, after attending a Corps of Drums Society meeting at Catterick.   Webmaster Peter McCarthy BEMSee Music to The Junior LeaderI joined several companies over time, sometimes as a bandmaster, which gave me scope to try out new ideas with different people. I was able to organise display items, and this in turn, led to writing my own arrangements.  As with all voluntary organisations; work, conflicts of character, frustration with attitudes or lack of achievement, sometimes left me with no alternative but to move on. 

In 1985 I joined the Corps of Drums Society, after visiting the stand at the Royal Tournament. From this point, my real interest in the music and tradition of corps of drums began.