Why do public safety pipe bands play the tune Balmoral to honor their fallen comrades? In asking this question it is important to understand the history of tunes to garner understanding of why we play them.
The tune Balmoral was written by Sir Robert Bruce of the Gordon Highlanders. As a Scottish solider fighting in World War 2, Robert Bruce was captured during the Battle of Bataan in the Philippines along with many a fellow soldier. The Battle ended on April 9, 1942, when U.S. General Edward King surrendered to Japanese General Masaharu Homma; by this point 75,000 soldiers became Prisoners of War. What followed was one of the worst atrocities in modern wartime history—the Bataan Death March. Robert Bruce survived this march, laying the road to Balmoral — honoring his comrades who died along the way with his tune.
Balmoral is a stoic 3/4 march which became almost infamous in the film BACKDRAFT which featured a funeral scene wherein members of the Bagpipes and Drums of the Emerald Society, Chicago Police Department played the tune to honor fallen firefighters. The tune appeared again on film when the Chicago Police Pipe Band played it during a police funeral scene in BATMAN; the Dark Knight. The story doesn’t end quite there because some folks got in a wee bit of trouble over the tune being performed on the silver screen, but rest assured all is settled and we can play it to our hearts content.
We play Balmoral to honor our fallen.
In doing so we honor all those who gave their lives in service to others.
On 19 November 2014 we received the following note from Carol Bruce Lynch — the daughter of the author of Balmoral – Sir Robert Bruce.
Loved your comments about “Balmoral”. My father would have been so proud to hear his music being played all over the world. I spent many nights listening to Balmoral being composed along with his many other pipe tunes. My dad was so talented musically and I believe composing his tunes helped him cope with the awful memories of his time as a Japanese P.O.W. My son who is also called Robert Bruce e-mailed me the article this afternoon. If you would like copies of any other tunes just let me know. Thanks again, Carol Bruce Lynch, Scotland
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