Many years ago the drum was used as a signalling device to relay orders to troops on ships and on the battlefield. This was the case for many years within the British Army & Royal Navy until it was replaced in around the 1850's by the Bugle. However the Bugle Horns & Trumpets were already being used by the British well before then.
On the 14th September 1805 Admiral Lord Nelson set sail from Portsmouth on board HMS Victory to engage in a battle with the combined French & Spanish fleet. On the 21st October the famous Battle of Trafalgar took place in which two Royal Marine Drummers were on board the Victory, they were Drummers (James) Long & (James) Berry. Both of these were 21 years old. Drummer Berry lost his life at Trafalgar. There was also a Royal Marine Trumpeter on board at that time by the name of Phineas Beard who was 23 years of age. Trumpets were often used when it was foggy at sea just like foghorns of today. (Please view the Roll Call page).
In 2008 & after over 20 years of playing the side drum in both re-enactment groups and modern bands, Paul Earley decided to start a service of his own, providing a Drummer dressed in what is believed to be an accurate copy of a Royal Marine Drummers uniform for the period of 1802-1815 to do a range of services. He has been inspired by the local history in his area (Portsmouth) including HMS Victory herself and of course the Royal Marines Museum.
He takes great pride in his work and even uses a copy of an original drum from the period that is of the correct size and includes goatskins, nail board, catgut snare & rope tensioning. The drum has got the authentic old sound that many re-enactment groups find difficult to get with more modern sized drums and plastic skins.
Most of his research was helped by the assistance of Andy Stadden who let him view his late Father's art work & John Ambler of the Royal Marines Museum. He owes a big thank-you to both.
© THE TRAFALGAR DRUMMER 2008-2021 PAUL EARLEY.