The British Grenadiers

The British Grenadiers

The British Grenadiers is a marching song for the grenadier units of the British military dating from the 17th Century. It is the Regimental Quick March of the Grenadier Guards, the Honourable Artillery Company and the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. It is also an authorised march of The Royal Gibraltar Regiment, The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery, The Canadian Grenadier Guards, The Royal Regiment of Canada, The Princess Louise Fusiliers, and The 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles.


A song entitled "The New Bath" found in Playford's dance books from the 1600s is thought to be the origin.cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = "British Grenadiers" | work = | publisher = The First Foot Guards reenactment group | date = | url = | format = | doi = | accessdate = 2007-01-07 ] However, it is also suggested that it ws derived from the Dutch march "De Jonge Prins van Friesland" ("The Young Prince of Friesland", referring to Prince Johan Willem Friso); the first notes of this tune are similar. The march was introduced to Britain during the reign of the Dutch Stadholder-King William III. Today it is played as the Royal Inspection March in the Dutch army, and as a march to the crown prince.

"The British Grenadiers" was a popular tune throughout the 18th and 19th century, and remained so until this day. During Operation Market Garden, a few men of the British 1st Airborne Division are said to have played this song using a flute and a few helmets and sticks as drums.cite book | last = Ryan | first = Cornelius | title = A Bridge Too Far | publisher = Simon & Schuster | date = 1974 | location = New York | pages = 670 | id = ISBN 0-6712-1792-5 ]

In the UK, it is played at Trooping the Colour. Additionally, the first eight measures are played during the ceremony when the Escort for the Colour marches into position on Horse Guards Parade.


The following text is the most well-known version of the song. The text dates back to the War of Austrian Succession (1702-1713), since it refers to the grenadiers throwing grenades (a practice that proved to be too dangerous and was dropped soon after,) and the men wearing "caps and pouches" (i.e. the typical grenadier caps, worn by these elite troops, and probably the small cartridge boxes worn in front, known as a 'belly box') and "louped clothes", then preserved only for the grenadiers.

:"Some talk of Alexander, and some of Hercules" :"Of Hector and Lysander, and such great names as these." :"But of all the world's great heroes, there's none that can compare.":"With a tow, row, row, row, row, row, to the British Grenadiers."

:"Those heroes of antiquity ne'er saw a cannon ball," :"Or knew the force of powder to slay their foes withal." :"But our brave boys do know it, and banish all their fears," :"Sing tow, row, row, row, row, row, for the British Grenadiers."

:"Whene'er we are commanded to storm the palisades," :"Our leaders march with fusees, and we with hand grenades." :"We throw them from the glacis, about the enemies' ears." :"Sing tow, row, row, row, row, row, the British Grenadiers."

:"And when the siege is over, we to the town repair.":"The townsmen cry, "Hurrah, boys, here comes a Grenadier!" :"Here come the Grenadiers, my boys, who know no doubts or fears!" :"Then sing tow, row, row, row, row, row, the British Grenadiers."

:"Then let us fill a bumper, and drink a health to those" :"Who carry caps and pouches, and wear the loupèd clothes." :"May they and their commanders live happy all their years." :"With a tow, row, row, row, row, row, for the British Grenadiers."

Historical terms

There are a number of words in the song which are not in current usage:
*Fusees - The Grenadier officers carried fusees - fusils, or muskets rather than bombs.
* Glacis - A term in the science of fortification, referring to the smooth sloping embankment that usually preceded the pit in front of the walls of a fort. Designed to deflect cannonballs, but also a dangerously exposed place to stand throwing grenades.
*Bumper - A bumper was any container that could be used to clink with another reveler's bumper in a toast to someone's health. It could be filled with beer, canary, grog, sack, posset, cider, ale, shrub or punch. It usually referred to a handled vessel such as a (pewter or ceramic) beer-mug or (leathern) jack, but it could refer to a (horn or pewter) beaker or even to a (treen, pewter or silver) punchbowl that could be picked up and passed around for everyone to quaff.
*Louped clothes - (pronounced "loup-ed" in order for it to scan) It means 'looped', and refers to the lace (those 'bastion loops') worn as an elite distinction by the grenadiers during the War of Austrian Succession. Other sources suggest that it refers only to the laced shoulder 'wings' worn by Grenadiers.
*toe row row - Refers to forming up in rows in a straight line, i.e. with toes on the line.

Other occurrences of the tune

*The tune was used by Joseph Warren, one of the leaders of the American Revolution, when he wrote the lyrics to a song called "Free Amerikay".

*The tune occurs as the main theme of the finale of the fourth piano concerto of Ignaz Moscheles.

*The "Gentleman Soldier," another traditional English song, uses the same tune

*The tune - with a different trio section - was used as the Regimental March of the Hanoverian Grenadier Guards in Hannover, Germany, until 1866. It had also been taken into the Royal Prussian Army March Collection's Second Volume (Quick marches) earlier, as Army March AM II, 52 in 1821.

*The song "A Transport of Delight" by Flanders and Swann begins with the words :"Some people like a motorbike, Some say a tram for me", deliberately set to the same melody. Another F&S version begins "Some speak of a Lagonda, some like a smart MG."

*A rather bawdy version exists about the grenadier suffering and spreading syphilis. This song is well-known and popular as a drinking song amongst historical re-enactors.

*The tune was used as the startup theme for Associated-Rediffusion, when they made the first British commercial television broadcast in September 1955. "British Grenadiers" was used alongside Blithe Spirit by Richard Addinsell for at least another year.

*In the movies "Horatio Hornblower", "", "The Patriot", "55 Days at Peking", "Barry Lyndon", "Empire of the Sun", "Sharpe's Company", "The Italian Job" and "The Four Feathers", "The British Grenadiers" is played. It can also be heard at the end of "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp".

*The opening bars of Howard Goodall's theme to "" also quote the piece.

*The song is also the regimental song to the Fort Henry Guard, a generic military regiment representing a British regiment of 1867 in British North America. The guard are part of the living museum at Fort Henry, Ontario.

*During the episode 'Merry Christmas Mr.Bean', Mr.Bean hums the song whilst playing with Queen's Royal Guards figurines.

*The tune is used in the "The Biochemists' Songbook's" song "In Praise of Glycolysis" [ Text] [ mp3]

*The tune is used in a PC game entitled 'Sid Meier's Pirates' to represent the English presence in the Caribbean.

*The tune is occasionally heard in the animated TV series Skunk Fu!.


See also

*Grenadier Guards
*Grenadier Guards Band

External links

* [ Easybyte] - free easy piano arrangement of "British Grenadiers March" plus midi sound file
* [ Lyrics and some explanation of unusual words]
* [ The Virtual Grammophone, Canadian Historical Sound Recordings] , Marches, British Grenadiers (regimental march of the Canadian Grenadier Guards) [ ram] (RealPlayer)
* [ The official site of the Grenadier Guards Band.]

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