The Band of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment has been in existence since the start of The Great War, 1914. It has gone through many changes in organization and size; for example, after the formation of the 2nd Battalion, the Band consisted of two sections, one located in Grand Falls-Windsor, and the second in St. John's.
The Band is now located in St. John's, and has an established strength of 35 members and a number of volunteer auxiliary members. It has made a number of recordings, and is well represented at many public events, ceremonies, and concerts. Many members of the Band maintain a life-long association, indicated by the fact that some members of the Band continue to play as volunteer associates after having to retire due to army age restrictions.
It is not clear when the Band was first formed. The first mention of a bugle and drum band in World War 1 is made by Col. Nicholson in The Fighting Newfoundlander.
Bugle Band at Fort William (1915). (Tony McAllister)
A bugle and drum band was playing at Fort William in St. John's in 1915, but there are no details on its origin or composition.
Drum and Bugle Band, undated. Note the very young age of these early Band members. One lacks a hat and a tunic. (Names are not verified as accurate) (Tony McAllister)
. Undated and no location available. (Tony McAllister)
It is possible that the Bugle Band members were drawn from the regular ranks of infantrymen for band duty on suitable ocassions, because there is no record of a sub-unit establishment for a Band at this time.
During the time the First Contingent was stationed at Fort George, Scotland (December, 1914), a full set of brass band instruments was donated to the Regiment by Sir Edgar Bowring. These instruments remained in storage and the drums and bugles continued to serve as the band.
Efforts were then made to form a brass band. Major Whitaker, CO of the Ayr Depot, was able in January 1916 to recruit a resident of Ayr, L.L. Worthington, retired bandmaster of the King's (Liverpool) Regiment, as the Regiment's first bandmaster in the rank of Warrant Officer First Class (WO1). Worthington also brought with him some members of his old band. By March 1916 the Band was playing for the troops on the march and at concerts.
First known photo of the Regimental Band with bandmaster WO1 Worthington (front row, centre) in 1916. (Fighting Newfoundlander, p. 218)
WO1 L.L. Worthington, Bandmaster, after receiving the Royal Victorian Medal, Sep. 27, 1917. For the eagle eyes, he is not wearing the King's Regiment badges; he must be wearing an early version of the Nfld Regiment badge. (Photo courtesy Tony McAllister)
A notable companion for the Regiment was added in April 1917 in the form of Sable Chief, a Newfoundland dog. Sable was presented to the Regiment by a 'Canadian officer who was serving in England'. There are no other details available. Sable marched with the Regiment in front of the Band, and served as the Regimental mascot until his untimely death in a traffic accident in 1918.
The Band led by Sable Chief, Sept. 1917. Leaving Chelsea Barracks during Newfoundland Week to play at 3rd London General Hospital. Sable is accompanied by Pte Hazen Frazer, his handler. Note that Sable is in step. (Fighting Newfoundlander, p. 432)
It is claimed that Sable kept in step on the march, and would rise and stand at attention on the opening bars of the National Anthem, and remain so until the end.
In 1956 The Loyal Orange Band in Topsail, Newfoundland, under the baton of the
late Edgar Adams, was asked to serve as the official band of The Royal
Newfoundland Regiment. In 1962 The 166th Field Regiment (RA) Band, under
the baton of the late Peter Stapleton, amalgamated with The Royal Newfoundland
Regiment Band, and the Band relocated from Buckmaster's Field to its present
home in Canadian Forces Station, Pleasantville, St. John's.
The Royal Newfoundland Regiment Band is presently the only military band in the
Province. Although a Canadian Forces Reserve Unit, the Band has remained active
over the years and has performed at numerous military and civilian functions.
These include routine tasks such as Mess Dinners, Change of Command Parades
and Annual Inspections. Other performances, though, stand out as testimony to
the Band's colourful history: The Trooping of the Colours for the Queen Mother in
1966; the visit of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1978; the Presentation of
New Colours to the Regiment by Prince Charles in 1983; Pope John Paul II's visit
to St. John's in 1984; Freedom of the City Parades in St. John's, Comer Brook, and Grand
Falls; visits by Governors General Leger, Schryer and Sauve; the state visit by King
Beaudoin of Belgium; visits by the Regiment's Colonel In Chief HRH The Princess Royal Princess Anne in 1991 and again in 2010.
The Royal Newfoundland Regiment Band has marched proudly in hundreds of
parades across the province. Their music has been enjoyed in town halls and
community centres, Royal Canadian Legion Branches, churches, senior citizens'
homes, arenas and shopping malls.
Over the years, members of the Band have left to pursue musical careers with
Regular Force bands. Others have distinguished themselves by their exemplary
performances with the Ceremonial Guard Band on Parliament Hill; the Land Forces
Atlantic Area Band at Camp Aldershot, Nova Scotia; the Canadian Forces
(Reserve) School of Music at CFB Borden, Ontario: and with symphony orchestras
and dance bands across Canada.
(Much material remains to be added- contributions are welcome)