Since the Mid 18th Century it had become fairly common for each regiment to have its own band. These consisted of 'a music' of Bandsmen, paid for and equipped from the purses of the Colonel and his officers, as opposed to Drummers and Buglers, who were on the Regimental establishment.
As a result of the way they were funded, these bands tended to be small, often consisting of only eight to ten men. Similarly there were little regulations as to their dress, and commanding officers were allowed a great deal of latitude in how they clothed their band. Very little written evidence exists regarding band uniforms in the early 19th Century, and we have to look primarily to pictorial evidence for their style and composition.
From the contemporary pictures available a preference for white coats is evident for bandsmen in Regiments of the line, often elaborately embellished with ornate lacing and trimmings etc. Footguards and royal regiments appear to have favoured red coats. From 1811, the War Office in London began to officially recognise bands as part of a regiment and sanctioned limited funding for them. Bands were established at one sergeant and one musician per company.
Some additional men could be drawn from across a regiment but the total was not to exceed the sergeant and ten. This stipulation was to remain until 1823. The Bands were there to provide morale raising music on parade, in battle and on the march. They have been known to be used as stretcher bearers in battle. This aside, a Band were always in addition to, and considered less important than the other group of musicians to be found in a regiment.
The drummers and buglers of a regiment were listed on its establishment, known as the regiment's strength. These men and boys were the communications system for a Regiment. They passed orders along the line of battle or order of march by special tunes or drum beats. A Light Infantry regiment, such as the 68th would only have buglers on the official strength. Due to the dispersed and fast moving nature of Light Infantry tactics, the clarity and lightness of a Bugle was found to be more effective than the cumbersome drum. In Light Infantry regiments, drummers would only be part of the band.
This is still the case in the Light Infantry and Royal Green Jackets today. No written or pictorial evidence exist for the uniform of the bandsmen of the 68th during the period portrayed by the Society. The uniforms worn by our musicians are conjectural, but draw on known existing practice from other regiments and the 68th band uniform of the 1840's. Research will continue in order to discover more on these uniforms.
As you will see from the photograph, our band consists of drummers and fifers, a popular combination for accompanying a march. The role of drummer boy allows younger male members of the society to be fully involved in our activities. (We recruit drummers from the age of twelve). Over the years we have found it easier to train drummers for the society than buglers. Thus forming a band suited the Society's membership and activities. However, we remain keen to recruit Buglers too. As they were in the period, our band will remain a small but important part of the Regiment, cheering up a march or a day in camp.