THE 17th Tonbridge Scout and Guide Band were chosen to lead the National Scout Service and Parade at Windsor Castle on St George’s Day on Sunday (April 22).
It was to prove a triple celebration, coming a day after the Queen’s 92nd birthday and 24 hours before the arrival of the royal baby.
The event is held every year as a celebration for members of the Scout Association who have achieved the Queen’s Scout Award.
It is the highest accolade for scouts and guides, equivalent to the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award.
They marched into the castle’s Quadrangle, where the parade was reviewed by Princess Beatrice of York, representing the Royal Family. The parade then proceeded to St George’s Chapel.
Two bands are invited from across the country and the 17th Tonbridge shared the honour with the band of the Household Cavalry.
Bandmaster Martin Rapley said: ‘The Scout bands of a suitable standard are rotated. We last did it nine years ago, meaning that at best there are only nine Scout bands capable of taking part.’
The 17th is a dedicated group, who practise for three and a half hours a week in two sessions.
They have previously played at The Menin Gate in Ypres – a memorial for the unknown dead of World War I – the Lord Mayor’s Show, a New Year’s Day parade in London and Disneyland in Paris.
The band has undergone a renaissance in the last three years, as Mr Rapley explains: ‘Until 2015 we played bugles and fifes and then due to a reducing membership we changed to full chromatic instruments – cornets, horns, euphoniums, clarinets, saxophones and flutes.
‘We have grown the membership from 25 to 60 and got back to the top in only three years, mainly due to a committed adult team who have provided tuition and support to our members of all abilities.’
The band has been playing for almost four decades but members don’t need any prior experience of playing a musical instrument.
‘We only have one, you must want to be a member,’ said Mr Rapley. ‘Everything else we teach, and have done so since 1970 when we were formed.
‘Some members pick it up quicker than others but as long as they reach a basic ability everyone has the opportunity to perform.
The discipline has proved beneficial to many boys and girls who have not excelled in school.
‘Many members have never played an instrument before joining us. A number are not academically strong but thrive with us, which I love to see.’
Tonbridge’s St George’s Day parade has been moved to this Sunday (April 29) so that the 17th Group could lead the Windsor celebration.
PICTURE: ROYAL FANFARE: The 17th Tonbridge Scout and Guide Band lead the St George’s Day parade at Windsor Castle