Pipers in War
Pipers were present in clan battles nearly 3000 years ago and continue to be present in war today. There were pipers in both World Wars, the Gulf War, Desert Storm, the Boer War and more.
The pipes were used as an incentive to battle, motivation for the troops, and intimidation of the enemy. They celebrated victories and mourned the fallen. Drums were used as a motivation and for communication. They signaled orders, tactical maneuvers, and firing of weapons.
Pipers were not only soldiers, but morale boosters. Thousands of pipers died while playing their men into battle, as they could not carry a weapon and their pipes at the same time. This was a great act of bravery.
During the First World War, Canada sent overseas between 25 and 30 pipe bands. In many instances, unarmed pipers were the first "over the top" as they led the troops into several battles including Vimy Ridge. They were also sent in as "stretch-bearers" to retrieve the wounded and dead. They often acted as "runners", bringing more ammunition and rations to the trenches or as transport individuals.
Many Pipers were decorated for valor including Military Medals and Distinguished Conduct Medals. James Richardson, a piper for the 16th Battalion, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest honor of gallantry.
When they weren't out in battle, there were several piping tournaments held behind the lines. On Dominion Day 1918, a Highland Gathering with all available pipe bands in the Allied Forces was attended by well over 500. After the final cease fire sounded, the pipes led the Canadian troops into Mons.
During the Second World War, Highland Regiments were allowed to take 6 pipers overseas, but many medical orderlies and clerks of the highland units were also pipers. Again, the pipers doubled as stretcher bearers and provided first aid to the wounded. After many battles including Dieppe in 1942, many pipers were killed due to the risk of snipers and heavy machine gun fire while trying to attend the wounded. Some were also incarcerated by the Germans. Many units decided to keep their pipers back and out of direct fire. It was easier to find more medical orderlies than pipers.
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In recognition of Remembrance Day, this video is for the