Beating of Retreat
The Beating of Retreat was held as an informal event on Thursday 5th July 2001 and took place at 1800hrs on the Main Parade Square within Redford Barracks Edinburgh. Taking part were the Highland Band, Pipes & Drums 1st Battalion The Highlanders, the Pipes & Drums Queen’s Own
Highlanders Regimental Association and the Drums and Pipes of the the Gordon Highlanders Regimental Association with the Liverpool and London Scottish bands.
Beating of Retreat over the years has become a spectator event where the Pipes and Drums put on a musical display for members of the public or off duty personnel and their families and are always well received by those watching. Retreat once formed part of a soldier’s daily routine and the term comes
from the French “Retraite” meaning Retire (as to bed in the evening) and not to be confused with the military battlefield meaning of “withdrawal” from the enemy. After their daily training the troops dispersed to look after their own administration and this often included cooking meals, foraging for supplies, collecting firewood, water, and any other domestic tasks that had to be undertaken at the end of the day. If the circumstances allowed soldiers could
also engage in their own trade for civilian employers and thus supplement their own meagre wages. There were often opportunities to help on the land during harvesting etc. At the close of the working day the troops had to be collected up again and so Retreat was beaten on the drum (the principal form of battlefield communication in earlier times) as the order to return to camp for Roll Call before the onset of darkness. At sunset the gates of the town or fortress were closed
for the night and the sentries then began challenging anybody who approached their posts.
Today Retreat still has two functions. It is the occasion for mounting the night guard each evening; and, in its ceremonial form, it is when the pipes & Drums, often augmented by the Military Band, can put on an impressive display for spectators.