Call to re­mem­ber

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - TV&RADIO - Jonathan Wright

We as­so­ciate the mourn­ful bu­gle call of The Last Post with death and re­mem­brance. But just how did a short piece of mu­sic dat­ing from the 1700s come to have such res­o­nance?

Ac­cord­ing to writer and cul­tural his­to­rian Al­wyn Turner in a doc­u­men­tary broad­cast on Armistice Day, we need to look back to the 1850s to be­gin to an­swer this ques­tion. This was when a call that had pre­vi­ously been used to in­di­cate a camp was se­cured for the night be­gan to be played at mil­i­tary fu­ner­als. Rather than mark­ing the end of the day, the The Last Post be­gan to be used to mark the end of a sol­dier’s life.

Over the years, mu­si­cians slowed the call down, so that the orig­i­nal 45-se­cond piece lasted 30 sec­onds longer, but with­out anyy ad­di­tional notes. The call also be­gan to be played at me­mo­rial ser­vices in­clud­ing for non-mil­i­tary per­son­nel.

Its as­so­ci­a­tion with the Great War, is in part down to grim rep­e­ti­tion. Fu­ner­als were con­ducted at dawn and dusk on the Western Front, and young bu­glers, played the piece again and again. The neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions of this made some wary. On Armistice Day 1919, it was played at the end of an un­of­fi­cial pa­rade by wounded sol­diers, in­clud­ing the blind and men on crutches. Lord Cur­zon, who or­gan­ised of­fi­cial events on the day, didn’t ap­prove: “Armistice Day is not a day of na­tional grief.” The pub­lic didn’t agree, which is why we now hear the call ev­ery year.

Draw­ing on in­ter­views and read­ings, and telling the full story of The Last Post for the first time, Turner also charts how it came to sym­bol­ise the end of the em­pire, yet also found a role in newly in­de­pen­dent na­tions – it was played at the fu­ner­als of both Gandhi and Nelson Man­dela.

The Last Postt is played as a ser­vice­man is laid to rest

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.