The Battle of the Somme

David suggested this tune as another “retreat march” to follow McCrea’s Delight. These tunes were written for the pipers to play as the regiment retreated from the parade ground (not the battle) and typically are in 3/4 or 9/8.

The Battle of the Somme was written by a piper who died in Oxford. David tells me that “the tune was written by Pipe Major William Lawrie during World War I. It commemorates the battle, but I think for many this tune also commemorates the use of the pipes in wartime. Pipe Major Lawrie died in 1916 at the Third Southern General Hospital, in Oxford, from illness contracted in the trenches, leaving behind a wife and three children under the age of five. (The Third Southern General was the overall name for many Oxford buildings used as hospitals during WWI, including Somerville College and the Examination Schools). The Battle of the Somme was one of the worst single conflicts in history, involving more than three million soldiers and with over a million casualties and 300,000 deaths. Only five miles of ground was gained during the five months of the battle (July to November 2016).” My great grandfather also died in the First World War, at the age of 40, at the later battle of Arras, in April 1917.

Sam Sweeney takes the tune down a fifth (into G) and adds it to his album, the Unfinished Violin, about the violin that Roger Claridge (also in Oxford) built for Sam from parts originally made by a luthier who also died in the First World War, however we will continue to play it in D to follow McCrea’s in G.

Here are some good places to hear the Battle of the Somme on Youtube:
Bagpipes by Duncan Pittock
The Dubliners (Luke Kelly)– fiddle – slow version
Mandolin and bazouki (Show of Hands) (also slow)
Tenor guitar (starting at 1.10 mins) (John Kelly)
The London Scottish Regiment full pipe band

You can download the pdf here