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Why Balmoral?

Updated: Aug 24, 2021

Why do public safety pipe bands play the tune Balmoral to honor their fallen comrades? In asking this question it is important to understand the history of tunes to garner understanding of why we play them.

Why do we play Balmoral So Much?


Why do public safety pipe bands play the tune Balmoral to honor their fallen comrades? In asking this question it is important to understand the history of tunes to garner understanding of why we play them.


The tune Balmoral was written by Sir Robert Bruce of the Gordon Highlanders. As a Scottish solider fighting in World War 2, Robert Bruce was captured during the Battle of Singapore in Malaysia along with many fellow soldiers. The Battle ended on April 9, 1942, when BritishLieutenant-General Arthur Ernest Percival surrendered to Japanese General Masaharu Homma; by this point 130,000 soldiers became Prisoners of War.


What followed was one of the worst atrocities in modern wartime history—In October 1942, the Japanese began to move POWs up to Thailand to build the Thai-Burma Railway which was their strategic solution to get supplies to their forces fighting the British in Burma.


Robert Bruce was forced to work on this railway and his movements were as follows:- Left Changi, Singapore in May 1943 – He was part of the notorious “H” Force which was treated very badly in Thailand and suffered very heavy casualties. Tonchan, Thailand - until November 1943 Sime Road, Singapore, – until May 1944 Changi, Singapore –until July 1944 Normanton, Singapore –until August 1945 Changi – August 1945 where he was liberated.


Sir Robert, then the Command Sgt Major of the Malay Regiment wrote this tune to honor those British and Allied soldiers who were killed or worked to death on this railway system.


Our thanks to Glenn Simpson, a retired Fire Chief with 36 years of service in New Jersey— for his assistance in providing background on this tune.

 

On 19 November 2014 we received the following note from Carol Bruce Lynch — the daughter of the author of Balmoral – Sir Robert Bruce.

Loved your comments about “Balmoral”. My father would have been so proud to hear his music being played all over the world. I spent many nights listening to Balmoral being composed along with his many other pipe tunes. My dad was so talented musically and I believe composing his tunes helped him cope with the awful memories of his time as a Japanese P.O.W. My son who is also called Robert Bruce e-mailed me the article this afternoon. If you would like copies of any other tunes just let me know. Thanks again, Carol Bruce Lynch, Scotland
 



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