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The Society was founded in 1951 and was 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. Unfortunately the naval membership has dwindled to such an extent that it has been decided to offer the membership the opportunity to become an Association no longer under the Royal Navy banner. for further details please contact Tom Smith by email tsmith59@ntlworld.com

It used to exist to promote the music of the great highland bagpipe and small pipes within the Royal Navy and to encourage anyone who wished 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. It is hoped that the Association will endeavour to do much the same through a corps of former serving officers and ratings supported by interested civilians.

Left - David Mellis with Admiral Cunningham 1951    Right - HMS Montrose entering Valparaiso 1998 (piper - Cdr Campbell de Burgh on the bridge roof)


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 became 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 lent 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 did this by keeping naval pipers and drummers in touch with each other and by organising several events throughout the year at which the Society played.

Every year, the Society used to meet in the summer at the Royal Navy Volunteer Band Festival.  Amongst local and individual commitments, it also supported Navy Days, the International Festival of the Sea and the Volunteer Bands' annual trip to the Cologne Carnival in Germany. Increasingly supported by civilian friends it is hoped that many of the activities will continue in its new guise.

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