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The Piper In Peace And War
Part 1 - Chapter IV

The Pipes in Strange Places

The “great war-pipe of the North” has been heard in every region where the Great War was waged— on the plains of France and Flanders, in Macedonia, Gallipoli, Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia, East and South-West Africa, India, on every sea over which the White Ensign has flown, and in the remotest corners of Russia.

In The Times of 21st September 1918, Mr Edmund Candler describes how a Russian colonel of Scottish descent was strangely affected by the sound of the bagpipe. “Colonel Leslie spoke no word of English and only a word or two of French. He had been an ‘exile’ for over three hundred years. An ancestor came over in Queen Mary’s time to train Ivan’s cavalry, and his family had been in Russia ever since. There was no outward trace of the Scot in him, and he did not wear his nationality on his sleeve. I think my orderly, a man of the Seaforths, was the first Highlander he had met. He had read of the pipes, he told me, in his family records, but it was at Mendali, on the inhospitable shores of Luristan, that he heard the music of them for the first time, and it was a Punjabi piper who piped the Cossacks in. . . . The Partizanski (a tribe of Cossacks, whose flag bears the Scottish Thistle, the English Rose, and the Russian Bear, and the motto in Russian, Nemo me impune lacessit, rode in singing their Russian part-songs, a deep-toned chant, the sergeant-major of each sotnia conducting with his whip. They were greeted by the "Hurrahs!" of the British soldiers and the Mahommcdan
sepoys, and the war-cries of the Jats and Sikhs; when the Sikhs broke in with their ‘VVah Guru ji ka khalsa! Wali guru ji ki fatteh!’ [Success to the followers of the holy Guru! Victory to the holy Guru!] the Cossacks broke off their song and cheered.

“As the infantry filed into camp with their long bayonets fixed in Russian fashion, the piper of the Punjabi battalion, a pupil of the pipemajor of the Black Watch, strode backwards and forwards playing each company in to the tune of the ‘Campbells are Cornin’,’ ‘Scotland the Brave,’ and the regimental slogan, ‘Hot Punch.’ And the Russian colonel, Leslie, hearing his native pipes for the first time, nearly wept.

“After dark,” the writer continues, “the Cossack and Indian troops had amusements. First the Cossacks danced; then the Bangaish sepoys of the Punjabi battalion gave us the wild Khattak dance of the North-West Frontier, swinging swords and leaping dervish fashion. The Cossacks cried, ‘Musik! musik!’ and the Punjabi piper came in with ‘The De’il’s in the Kitchen,’ which started them off dancing again.”

The bagpipe is, of course, no strange instrument to the Sikhs, Gurkhas, Pathans, and Dogras, each regiment of which has its own pipe band. The keenness and enthusiasm of these dusky warriors for pipe music was sometimes a joy, sometimes a penance, to the Scottish pipe-majors detailed for their instruction. Before the instructor was out of bed, a knocking at the door would announce an Indian novice anxious to obtain a special lesson in order that he might outstrip his comrades. In the pre-war days of a certain Indian Army mess, it was the nightly entertainment, which custom never staled, to watch the pipe-major’s acceptance of the customary drink from the colonel after the piping. All eyes were fixed on the piper as he drained the glass, reversed it, and returned it. Then he raised the right elbow', wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and gave the final salute. All this, unremarked in the Scottish piper, was droll when rendered by an apt pupil from the Himalayas, who copied his model “to the finger-tips.”

Some Stornoway gunners, hearing well-known Highland airs played in the Egyptian desert, hurried in the direction of the sound, and were mightily astonished to find that they were being rendered by a Sikh pipe band and by the 21st Indian Mountain Battery. Well pleased were the performers in finding a critical but appreciative audience in the Highland artillerymen. These men of the Ross Mountain Battery, pipers every one, considered the skill of the Indian soldier pipers “not at all bad.” The Indians, recognising the “piper look” on the Scotsmen’s faces, passed their pipes to the Scots, who in their turn played for the delectation of the Indians. Then to complete the parallel, perhaps, the Indians gave a demonstration of Highland hospitality by entertaining the strangers to chapati.

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