Image for St. Columb's Cathedral, Londonderry: Flute Band's Somme Drum

St. Columb's Cathedral, Londonderry: Flute Band's Somme Drum

Duration: 05:46

St Columb's Cathedral in Londonderry is a popular place of worship. It is also home to some historic military regalia, including a remarkable bass drum.

This drum was carried to the Somme in France, the scene of one of the most famous battles of the Great War, by members of the Hamilton Flute Band.

Band members are believed to have enlisted en masse when war broke out. They became the regimental band of the 10th Battalion, The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Their flutes and drums accompanied the soldiers as they marched hundreds of miles - first to their training camps and then to the Western Front.

When the 'Derrys', as they were known, went to France the band members became stretcher bearers. They witnessed the full horror of war at the Battle of the Somme, and their bass drum and side drums were used as a communion altar. The term 'drumhead service' has its origins in this practice.

66 members of the band lost their lives in the course of the war.

The survivors returned home with the bass drum, and in the 1970s the band donated their full set of drums to St Columb's Cathedral where they are on display in the Chapterhouse.

In 1996 the Hamilton Flute Band returned to France to play at the commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. They brought the old bass drum, and it served as a communion altar once more during a service at the Ulster Tower.

The band, and the drum, may return to the Somme in 2016 to mark the centenary of that historic battle.

Cathedral historian Ian Bartlett and two band members recount the drum's story.

Location: St. Columb's Cathedral, Derry, BT48 6RQ
Image of the Hamilton Flute Band serving as the 10th Battalion Service Band of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in France, circa 1915
Photograph courtesy of the Hamilton Flute Band, Londonderry

Available since: Fri 14 Feb 2014

This clip is from

World War One At Home

WW1 at Home: a growing collection of stories about life on the WW1 Home Front

Image for World War One At Home

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