From the green hills of Tyrol to the Green Mountain State, bagpipers will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the World War I armistice—and in the U.S., Veterans Day—by rising with the sun and playing “When the Battle’s Over.”
St. Andrew’s Pipers, an Essex Jct. based group, will be among them.
“We’re very excited because it’s going to be this remembrance of the sacrifice of the Great War,” St. Andrew’s Pipers’ pipe major Beth Paul said. “It’s particularly poignant for us because, of course, there were many U.S. soldiers in World War I and, in fact, there were over 2,000 pipers.”
Over 1,700 pipers worldwide will play the song at 6 a.m., their local time, commemorating the hour the armistice was signed 100 years ago, according to Paul. Around 12 members of St. Andrew’s Pipers will meet at the First Congregational Church of Essex to participate.
“When the Battle’s Over” was composed by Scotsman William Robb in the 19th century and played by pipers as they returned to their barracks after combat ended, according to the College of Piping manager Stuart Letford. Pipers accompanied Scottish combat units to battle to aid with morale and provide entertainment on marches, Letford wrote in a research paper.
“It’s very appropriate to use that instrument during the centenary,” St. Andrew’s piper and Scottish transplant Ewan Cameron said, adding that alongside its historical significance in war, bagpipes are “an instrument that people want you to play.”
For some of the group’s members who are veterans—Paul included—there is added significance to the event, she said. But even for those who never served, there is pride and honor in commemorating veterans.
Elizabeth Malone, a three-year piper, said the history behind the event appealed to her.
“When I think back to World War I, I think of how many countries came together to right what they thought was evil,” she said, adding the event is a great way to mark the end of a negative period that brought positive and lasting alliances.
Fellow piper Jon Mabee agreed. For him, the event renews history. He said it means a lot to have the privilege of honoring men and women who lost their lives to “tyranny and evil.”
As a former officer with the Allen County Sheriff’s Department in Indiana, Mabee said piping is how he gives back to law enforcement personnel.
Gary Gildemeister, a 16-year member of the Essex Jct. group, hopes to honor his grandfather who served with the 107th engineers of the U.S. Army in World War I and had Scottish heritage.
“He loved the bagpipes and loved his Scottish heritage,” Gildemeister said. “When I heard about this [event], you couldn’t keep me from it.”
Historically, pipers and drummers led troops into battle and often suffered casualties for their positions on the frontlines, according to Paul. In World War I, they sometimes left the trenches to play before the troops advanced. Many of them were unarmed and died during their efforts, Paul said.
The band will play a mixture of tunes at the event including “When the Battle’s Over” and “On the Road to Passchendaele,” a piece dedicated to over 500,000 soldiers who lost their lives en route to the namesake town in Belgium. The group will then switch to songs that were popular with soldiers during the war such as “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag,” and “It’s a Long Road to Tipperary.”
Visitors are welcome to attend the performance; participants will be treated to breakfast from the Quality Bakeshop afterward. During the event, Paul will discuss the history of the songs and the church’s pastor will lead a prayer and remembrance of veterans.
“Piping is kind of oddball stuff anyway, so to have this thing that’s going to involve players all over the world is just really cool to me,” Paul said. “It’s that kind of music that fires folks up.”
The St. Andrew’s Pipers practice each Wednesday around 7 p.m. in St. James Episcopal Church in Essex Jct. They perform at events, parades and several commencement ceremonies around the state including St. Michael’s College in Colchester.