New West drummer part of historical first

The Vancouver Police Pipe Band escorts members of the Queen
The Vancouver Police Pipe Band escorts members of the Queen's Royal Guard on a march down The Mall past St. James Park in London. John Briggs, of New Westminster, is a drummer in the band. He can be seen as the last drummer on the left side.
— image credit: PHOTO CONTRIBUTED

A New Westminster drummer is marching into history.

John Briggs, who works at Simon Fraser University's Surrey campus, is in England with the Vancouver Police Pipe Band which is participating in the venerable changing of the Queen's guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

It's the first time a non-military band has performed in the ceremony, which has been a daily tradition in London for 350 years.

"It is literally the most incredible experience I've ever had," said Briggs, who's played in pipe bands for almost 50 years. "Nothing will ever top this in my life for sure."

The band is scheduled to participate in four ceremonies at Buckingham Palace and two at Windsor Castle during its time in England.

The band was also given the opportunity to play in the forecourt at St. James Palace as the Queen's guards who are completing their 24-hour shift formed up for the eight-minute march down The Mall to Buckingham Palace. That's the first time a pipe band has played in the forecourt since the St. James Palace was built as the London residence for King Henry VIII in 1536, explained Briggs in an email. Normally the military bands only start playing when the march off down The Mall commences.

"There are thousands of people lining the streets every day to see this," said Briggs.

To stay in step for its official duties, on Monday the band marched from Wellington Barracks, near Buckingham Palace, to Green Park where it lay a wreath at the Canadian War Memorial.

The trip to England is a highlight of the pipe band's 100th anniversary celebrations.


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