Drum Major Tom Birkett

Drum Major Tom Birkett
Coldstream Guards
Wearing his State Dress

Tom Birkett was born in 1917 in Whitehaven, Cumberland. He joined the Coldstream Guards on the 28th September 1936 at Caterham and as a brass band cornet player, was recruited to the Drums as soon as his Drum Major heard his play the bugle. First promoted to Drum Major of the 3rd Battalion in 1945 (he was later to lead a 50 strong Corps of Drums in the 2nd Battalion), until his promotion he had only played transcriptions of marches played by the band.

Against his schooling, he found himself have to reform the battalion’s Drums for all the inherent parades marking the end of WW2. His biggest problem was the lack of printed music and he therefore started ruling staves on plain paper and began the business of composing: something he had never previously tried!

After his army service he became Drum Major, later, Bandmaster of the Central Band of the Royal Air Force (the 2 year course for which he passed in 12 months!). He wrote Out of Escort, (Armoury House), when serving in Malaya. Leaving his many popular arrangements aside, his marches include:

Hazelmere (Colonel Gooch), The Adjutant (Captain Loyd), Second Battalion, The Quartermaster (Major Edwards).

March “Coldstream Star” by Drum Major Tom Birkett
Played by the Guards Depot Corps of Drums

Tom began composing again around 1991 and “Major Powell”, was delivered to the dedicatee in March 92, followed by “Pineglen” (named for a coach tour company used by the Birketts) and a setting of Colonel Bogey as a slow troop two weeks later. Two subsequent marches, “Buttons in Twos” and “Coldstream Star” were submitted for the 1993 Birthday Parade and the former selected. In this period he also wrote:

March “The Adjutant” by Drum Major Tom Birkett
Played by The Combined Corps of Drums of the Household Division

Ashmore, Coldstream Drummers Reunion (to obvious purpose!), Lynhurst, Mary Rose, Ringwood, Trained Soldier (first called Red Plume but later retitled because a military band march of like name existed).

In May 1994 he declared his intention to rest from composing.

Compiled by Major (Ret’d) R. Powell.

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