The Society was founded in 1951 and has developed to become the parent body governing piping in the Royal Navy, for the benefit of all members of the Naval service and associated organisations.
It exists to promote the music of the great highland bagpipe and small pipes and to encourage anyone who wishes to learn to play the pipes, or to improve their performance, by keeping in touch with one another with a view to pursuing this interest to the best advantage.
We aim to provide an organisation and focal point for the presentation and playing of pipes and drums at Naval parades and functions and to encourage interest in the Royal Navy through wide representation of piping as a voluntary but well supported Naval activity.
At the end of the Second World War, piping was strong in the Royal Navy, with the pipe band of the Torpedo Factory at Greenock winning the Inverclyde Trophy at the Cowal Games in 1948. But it was not until 1949 that, when serving at Trincomallee, Sri Lanka, on the East Indies Station, three pipers mooted the idea of forming a Naval Piping Society. It was one of these men, Lt Cdr David Mellis, who in 1951, turned the idea into reality.
The first meeting was held at Oak Lodge, Southwick, with a total of 5 pipers. The Admiral of the Fleet The Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope agreed to become the President of the Society, and the Admiralty granted the use of the title "The Royal Naval Pipers' Society". The number of members rose steadily throughout the 1950s, with pipe bands being formed in both shore establishments and ships. HMS Caroline in Northern Ireland was no exception, with a band being formed by their medical officer, who used to march with them disguised as an Able Seaman. He continued to do so until one day he was uncovered by an inspecting officer who could not reconcile his OBE with no Good Conduct Badges. In 1960, a Pipe Band from the Apprentice Training Establishment in Rosyth, HMS Caledonia, performed the first ever 'Beating of the Retreat' by a Royal Navy band on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle.
The Society continued to flourish throughout the 1960's and 1970's, but after many large ships paid off and following the closure of several shore establishments, the number of pipe bands and pipers went into decline. The closure of HMS Caledonia in the 1980's unfortunately reduced numbers to an extent that the Society could no longer continue. In 1993, the Society was revived by Cdr Campbell de Burgh, who soon found enough new members to bring it back to life. The then First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Jock Slater, agreed to be the President of the Society, with Commodore Sir John Clerk of Penicuik as the Honorary Vice President.
Due to operational commitments and the size of the Royal Navy today it is no longer practicable to form naval pipe bands, with only 1 or 2 pipers at the most serving in the same ship or establishment. The Society however lends itself to such an arrangement by aiming to promote pipe music in the Royal Navy and to encourage anybody who wishes to learn, or to improve their performance. It does this by keeping all naval pipers and drummers in touch with each other and by organising several events throughout the year at which the Society will play.
Every year, the Society meets in the summer at the Royal Navy Volunteer Band Festival. Amongst many local and individual commitments, it also supports Navy Days, the International Festival of the Sea and the Volunteer Bands annual trip to the Cologne Carnival in Germany.
Membership is open to any serving or retired members of the Royal Navy or Royal Marines as well as to anyone who has served on attachment to the Royal Navy from other Naval Services, the Civil Service, MOD Police, Auxiliary and Reserve Forces. Honorary membership is given on a case by case basis. Subject to numbers the Society also offers the opportunity to become a "friend" of the Society to anyone who is not of a military background and can be sponsored by a member.
The Society's membership currently covers a wide range of talent, from Grade 1 band members and Silver Medal winners to absolute beginners who have only been learning the chanter for a few weeks. Our members are also made up of an even mix of serving and retired personnel from a variety of naval ranks from Admiral to Able Rate. It also goes across all the disciplines, including warfare specialists, doctors, commandos, chaplains, engineers, supply and secretariat, special forces, pilots, submariners, dentists and divers and as you would expect they are serving all around the world, from Cape Wrath to the Falkland Islands. Each one of them is a volunteer and a lone piper in their unit, living and working in conditions that often do not lend themselves to piping. However, the chances are that everywhere the Royal Navy operates today, the sound of a naval piper can be heard in the distance...........