Band and Drums Music

Drummed out - and back


An interesting account of the initial loss, and later, recovery, of drums of the 6th Queen's Royal Regiment is told in editions of The Journal of The Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment.

In May 1940 the Battalion were in a position at Steenwerck near Lille on the Belgian/French frontier. When the Blitzkrieg began they were ordered to move into Belgium to defend the line of the Escaut. The Commanding Officer was Lieutenant Colonel Ivor Hughes, who later became Major-General Ivor Hughes KCVO, Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Commons. He ordered that the drums and bugles should be left behind, locked in a safe storage place. Accordingly, they were placed in an outbuilding in a brewery yard at Steenwerck and the Battalion went forward without them. The precipitate and confused return was not via Steenwerck but was direct to Dunkirk. A party which went to Steenwerck to try and recover the drums found that they had gone, seemingly looted. From then on the Battalion, actively engaged in the war, had things other than drums on their minds. The 'Bermondsey Boys', as they were affectionately known, went from Alamein to the Dutch frontier with the 7th Armoured Division via Mareth, Tunis, Salemo and Normandy. By the end of the war there were few of the original 1939 Territorials left. But the drums had not been forgotten. Enquiries were made and there was even a visit to Steenwerck but no information was forthcoming.

In 1961 the 6th Queen's were amalgamated with two other units of the Regiment to form the 3rd Battalion, The Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment. Two years later Captain (later Lieutenant Colonel) A H Le Q Clayton, was on a battlefield tour in Armentieres when his interest in the matter of the drums was re-kindled. Local enquiries proving negative, he waited until his return to England and then wrote to the Mayor of Steenwerck. The missive proved fruitful.

Appropriately on the Glorious First of June the Mayor wrote back to say that one drum had been located in the hands of a M Le Blanc who occasionally played it in the village band. Further enquiries and publicity brought a second drum to light. Together with accompanying cymbals it was being used by the local jazz band under M J Turck. Both M Le Blanc and M Turck signified their willingness to return the drums to the Regiment.

In October 1963 a party of the 3rd Queen's Surreys, including Captain A H Le Q Clayton, went to Steenwerck to officially and ceremonially recover the drums. The party was led by the Battalion's Honorary Colonel, Colonel J B H Kealy DSO, and included the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel D B Pullen TD and 15 officers and men of the Battalion. Also with the Battalion were 10 members of the Bermondsey Branch of the Regiment's Old Comrades Association, led by Colonel Geoffrey Bevington ID who was Second in Command of the 1st/6th Queen's when they were at Steenwerck.


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