Keeping Music Live in Suffolk

Speed the Plough - Music and the Suffolk Regiment

There has been much discussion about when and how often the band should play Speed the Plough.  We consider it to be our signature tune and nowadays play in at the end of every concert. One band member, Andrew Farthing, is in the process of researching the music of the Suffolk Regiment and all finds will appear here. This process has begun with material freely available for loan from Suffolk Libraries and Heritage and will move on to other archive material, and he also hopes to talk to those who have been involved in it.  Hopefully we might attract readers who can give us information. We are not sure, at present, how long before WW1 Speed the Plough was associated with the Suffolks.


Regimental Music 

Marching past in slow time having for some years been practically abolished there has been some difficulty in ascertaining what slow marches were adopted by the 1st and 2nd Battalions respectively, owing to their having been lost sight of.

The evidence available shows that the slow march of the 1st Battalion is known merely by the name of "The 1st Suffolk Regimental Slow March."

That of the 2nd Battalion (raised in 1858) was "The Druids' Chorus" from the opera "Norma." Apparently, the only quickstep known to have been in use by the 1st Battalion is "Speed the Plough," and, that of the Reserve Battalion, prior to 1858 (played on their fifes and drums, as they had no band), was "The Duchess."

On the formation of the 2nd Battalion, their German bandmaster (Herr Richs) introduced, as a quickstep, a German March (name forgotten), which was disliked. This continued until Colonel Ponsonby assumed command in 1863. when he changed it to "Milanollo," the quickstep of the Coldstream Guards, which was followed for periods by "The Men of Harlech," "The Dashing White Sergeant," and "The White Cockade."

At Colonel Ponsonsby's death in 1868, "The Duchess" was introduced as a march past by Major Espinasse, and continued in use until about 1898, when it was changed to "Speed the Plough," in order that the1st and 2nd Battalions should be alike.

On the date of closing this History (1913) the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Battalions, Suffolk Regiment, all go by to "Speed the Plough."

Officers' special Mess Calls, on guest nights, in the 12th, originated in the 2nd Battalion, at the Curragh, in 1863, when they were sounded on bugles with chromatic attachments. Before 1881, it became customary for the band to play them, and they were introduced into the 1st Battalion in 1909.

The Officers' 2nd Mess Call of the 1st Battalion is "The Roast Beef of Old England," its 1st Mess Call, and both those of the 2nd Battalion, being shown in the pages which follow. The Company Bugle Calls of the 1st and 2nd Battalions were in use prior to the formation, in October, 1913, of the double-company system, and were also adopted by the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion.

The Battalions now use the calls of A, B, C and D Companies for the new four-company organisation.

(Suffolk Regimental History -1914)

 Click here to listen to an early live recording of Speed the Plough, recorded in 1988


(Suffolk Regimental History - 1914)


The following extract is taken from a history of the Suffolk Regiment and refers to the 8th and 2nd Battalions of the Suffolk Regiment

'Speed the Plough'—the Suffolk Regimental march—had been played by the band of the 2nd Battalion when it met the 8th early in July. The only music which the 2nd heard for a long time afterwards was that of the guns, as they thundered at Delville Wood, during the attack on Cochrane alley, and during the battle of the Serre. In this last action, fought in mud and mist, all the officers in the leading companies were rapidly killed, and the advance was halted for lack of leaders. The winter which followed that dreary November 13 was a miserable one, with the water in the trenches often waist deep.

(The Suffolk Regiment - Guthrie Moir)



(Suffolk Regimental History - 1914)



(Suffolk Regimental History - 1914)


Ray Walker and his POW Memories


Ray Walker (5825436) was born 1 June 1915. He joined the Suffolk Regiment as a musician on 14 May 1931.

Ray Walker