Beating Retreat 2013

On two successive evenings each year in June a magnificent pageant of military music, precision drill and colour takes place on Horse Guards Parade in the heart of London when the Massed Bands of the Household Division carry out the Ceremony of Beating Retreat.

It is an unforgettable evening as 300 musicians, drummers and pipers perform this age-old ceremony. The Retreat has origins in the early days of chivalry when beating or sounding retreat pulled a halt to the days fighting, a return to camp and the mounting of the guard for the night. Today, Beating Retreat, has become a major event in the Army’s ceremonial calendar, delivering an evening of spirited marches as well as poignant and evocative hymns and anthems of special significances to our fighting forces everywhere.

The salute is taken by Her Majesty The Queen or another member of The Royal Family.

The participants of Household Division Beating Retreat are drawn from the bands of the two Household Cavalry Regiments and the five Foot Guards Regiments which make up the Household Division.

The Massed Bands of The Royal Marines have also been Beating Retreat on Horse Guards Parade approximately every other year since 1960 to celebrate the birthday of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Captain General Royal Marines.

Click images to enlarge

Tickets are available now at:

Beating Retreat


Household Division have announced that they have new posters for sale for 2015!

They now have A1 size posters for sale for the Beating Retreat and Trooping the Colour designs shown below:


For details of prices and how to order Click Here!

2014 posters are still available too!


POSTERITTY also have some framed posters available:

The Royal Marines Musical Spectacular takes place every other year and the last occasion was in the summer of 2014 when the Royal Marines celebrated their 350th anniversary.

A DVD recording and a double CD of the Royal Marines Beating Retreat 2014 is now available here

The Origins of Beating Retreat
The ceremony of Beating Retreat has its origins in the practicalities of early warfare when the drum was used for all signals on the battlefield. Beating the Retreat was a signal for troops to disengage from combat as light faded. This custom was also used to warn outlying troops to withdraw to the confines of the encampment before the picquets were set for the night.

One of the first references to the custom of Retreat is in the 'Rules and Ordynaunces for the Warre' dated 1554, where it is called 'Watch Setting'. In 1727 Humphrey Bland's 'Treatise of Military Discipline' stated: 'Half an hour before the gates are to be shut, generally at the setting of the sun, the Drummers of the Port Guard are to go upon the ramparts and beat a Retreat to give notice to those without that the gates are to be shut.'

There appeared to be some confusion between Retreat and another custom of 'Tattoo' which was a beating of drums within the billeting areas to order the troops to their quarters. Twenty years later, whilst in Flanders during the war of the Austrian succession, The Duke of Cumberland made the first clear distinction between Retreat and Tattoo, when he ordered 'The Retreat is to be daily at Sunset and the Tattoo is to be beat at a later hour as ordered by the Commandants of individual encampments'.

The original call of Retreat was beaten by drums alone, and it was some years before fifers were added to play tunes. The bugle came later still and the present ceremony of having a band parade is a modern innovation to add spectacle. The ceremony of Beating Retreat in the Royal Navy and Royal Marines rose to importance in the 1930s when the then Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean Fleet, Admiral Sir William Fisher KCB, CVO, chose it as an impressive spectacle to perform when his Fleet visited foreign ports. The Massed Bands of the Fleet were added to the Corps of Drums and the ceremony was concluded with the bugle call ‘Sunset’ as the White Ensign was lowered.

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British Military Ceremonial
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