Bandsmen & the Rush to the Colours: September, 1914

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Horwich Old Prize Band, who took part at Belle Vue in 1914, pictured in 1916.

Bandsmen and the ‘Rush to the Colours’: The First Month of World War One: Convergences of Tradition, Class and Gender.

By Dr Stephen Etheridge, GLCM, MA, PhD

 From 1914-1915 there was a swift and unparalleled expansion of Britain’s land forces. As Peter Simkins has written, this ‘was a gigantic act of national improvisation which helped to create not only Britain’s first-ever mass citizen army but also the biggest single organisation in British history up to that time.[1] These first months of recruitment and mobilisation are the subject of this blog and the ones that follow. They describe how the editors and correspondents of band periodicals reacted to civilian bandsmen becoming soldiers. How did bandsmen react to the ‘rush to the colours’ that gripped the nation? How did the bands and bandsmen in and around Manchester react to a conflict that, due to enlistment, could have destroyed a well-established working-class cultural tradition? Answering these questions not only reflects the national picture of the brass band movement but also embraces older Victorian values that illuminate aspects of tradition, class and gender found in the brass bands of the Manchester region.

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