The Drums of War - a brief history


Drums have been used for military purposes for thousands of years and provide three main purposes to an army:

i)  To sound out orders by drum beat that can be heard over noise of battle.
ii) To raise spirit and morale
iii) To provide rhythm and set pace when marching

A battle between Qi and Lu in ancient times (684 BC) was noted to have a significantly changed outcome because of the use of drums.

Some of the earliest known drum sticks were from the 1300's, used to beat snare drums called Tabors, and they were made from wood.

Drummers would have been sons of the gentry and educated to speak a number of languages to enable them to parley with the opposition. They were paid around a shilling a day and it was a hanging offence to kill a drummer!

Special skills or training required:
We train as often as possible individually but only get the opportunity to train as a group at events.

The pattern or tone of a drum beat mean a variety of messages. The basic tunes a drummer needs to learn are the six orders/calls of war which are:-
        -  Preparative
        -  Form up
        -  Make ready,
        -  Charge/fall on,
        -  Reform
        -  Retreat

In addition there are nine marching tunes to learn but it is unrealistic to expect new drummers to pick all these up at once so we start with three basics and we make them into rhymes to simplify it. A Scots' Drummer's Manual is also available to members across all Scots Regiments.

The role of Drum Major is to drink lots of rum hand out sweeties. He/she will also call the changes of tune on the March and relay the Orders from the officers on the field.


Cost of kit (excluding standard clothing):
A drum can cost anything between £100 - £250 depending on size. The size of the drum you chose is an individual choice. Marcus Music make drums in numerous dimensions. Drum sticks vary between £10-£20. A leather strap is around £10.

Each regiment has at least one regimental drum that can be used so buying a drum is not always necessary dependent on the number of 'new drummers'. Drums can also be purchased second hand at a fraction of the cost.

Maintaining a drum is not expensive and depends on the amount of use - once a year to have the strings tightened (around £30 including postage) but generally a little dubbin once a year on the skin will suffice.


No of drummers in Scots Brigade:
Gordon's (5), Laghtnans (3), Frasers (2), O'Cahans (2)

(correct as of 2017)


Where Found:
i) In troop line up: This depends on numbers. Generally at the front behind the standard bearer but we can also be placed in the middle between musket and pike.
ii) On field: Drum Major at the front with Brigade Commander. Remaining drums behind the troops.