“THE CORPS MARCH”
By LIEUT-COLONEL C WILKINSON OBE
This article has been written partly by request and also because many members of the Corps, both past and present, have in recent years enquired about the origin of the Corps March. It therefore seems appropriate that there should be an official record readily available for anyone to refer to on this subject.
Just over 10 years ago Major-General I D Erskine, DSO who was then Provost Marshal, decided that the Corps should have a march of its own. He asked many people for their ideas including the Commandant, Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall, None of these, however, seemed to be particularly suitable and so finally General Sir Miles Dempsey, who was then Colonel Commandant suggested a tune called “The Watch Tower” which had been played by the Massed Bands at the Aldershot tattoo in 1936.
On 2nd May 1949, General Sir Miles Dempsey with Major-General I D Erskine, Brigadier L F E Wieler (who by this time had become Provost Marshal) and Colonel H V McNally (Deputy Provost Marshal, War Office) visited the Royal Military School of Music to hear an arrangement of this tune played specially for them by the Kneller Hall Band. As a result, it was considered that this would make one of the finest marches in the army and so it was there and then chosen.
The fact that it was originally the work of a German composer had been taken into consideration whilst the choice was being made. It was felt that the inspiring quality of the music more than outweighed any adverse consideration that the march was the work of an ex-enemy national, and of course there were already in existence a number of officially approved Regimental Marches which included airs by Germans, such as the marches of the 11th hussars and the Buffs. It is really the old German march “Hoch Heidecksberg” by R Herzer with slight variations in the opening bars. The original copyright dated 1921 is the property of the Philharmonischer Verlag, Benno Goldfinder, Berlin W.30 and the publishers are Messrs. Schott & Co. Ltd, 48 Great Marlborough Street, London WI.
In asking for permission to be granted for the adoption of “The Watch Tower” as the march of the corps of Royal Military Police, General Dempsey asked the Director of Personal Services on 10th May, 1949, whether early consideration could be given to his request because, if approved, he wished to have it played at the unveiling of the RMP War Memorial at Inkerman Barracks, Woking, on Sunday 17th July, 1949. Certain unforeseen difficulties arose regarding the copyright and it was not until 27th October,1949 that the Adjutant-General was able to give his final written approval and this was subsequently published in Army Order No. 137 of 1949. Nevertheless, the march was in fact played at the Unveiling Ceremony although it had not been officially approved as the Corps March.
It is claimed by 40 Infantry Divisional Provost Company that they were the first Provost Company to use it for a march past. A gramophone recording had been sent out to Hong Kong, and the DAPM persuaded the Commando Brigade Band to learn from it the variations from “Hoch Heidecksberg.” and so when in March 1950 the Provost Marshal, Far East Land Forces, Colonel P Godfrey-Faussett, OBE arrived to inspect the Company they were able to march past to the music of the “Watch Tower.”
Taken from The RMP Corps Journal. by kind permission of the Regimental Secretary.