This week Horse Guards in London hosts the annual ceremony of Beating Retreat with massed bands playing and marching in formation. But where does the tradition come from?
The origins of the ceremony date back several hundred years to at least the 16th century when the beating of drums signalled the end of a day’s fighting, the closure of camp gates and the lowering of flags. Among the English kings credited with having ordered troops to “beat retreat” are old enemies King James II and King William III.
The ceremony was standard practice by the early 1700s with flutes or fifes added to the drum beating before, following the Napoleonic Wars, these were both replaced with bugles, to help ensure the sound reached greater distances.
The ceremony has been held annually at Horse Guards Parade since 1966 and this year involves the Massed Bands and Corps of Drums of the army’s Household Division along with The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery as well as The United States Army Europe Band and Chorus.
The event is a prelude to the Trooping the Colour on Saturday when more than 1,300 troops will parade in honor of the Queen’s Official Birthday.
Beating Retreat will be held at Horse Guards Parade on 8th and 9th of June (Wednesday and Thursday night), from 9pm. For more information and tickets, see www.guardsbeatingretreat.com