The Household Troops Band of The Salvation Army was formed in 1887 from a group previously known as the Life Guards. An advertisement in the Salvation Army newspaper The War Cry read: ‘If you’re young, if you’re saved, if you’re physically fit, if you can play a brass instrument … are prepared to leave home and family for six months active service for God and the Army … then be at Clapton Congress Hall on 12 March 1887.’The Band was formed of 25 brass instrumentalists, each wearing a white pith military helmet (the normal military headgear of the day), a red guernsey, blue trousers and gaiters. The bandmaster was Staff-Captain Harry Appleby and the tour lasted six months and was followed by another tour to Canada in October 1888, which saw the Band become the first Salvation Army band to cross the Atlantic.
While they were away, a second group of players was inaugurated and on 14 October 1889, in the country village of Whitchurch, Hampshire, it is reported that the Household Troops Band led a march of more than 1,000 Salvationists in a great march for liberty. The local Salvationists had suffered persecution and injury in the Whitchurch Riots – as a result of this demonstration The Salvation Army won a landmark legal case and with it the right to play and preach in the open-air.
The first Troops Band returned home to Britain in 1891 and later members of both bands amalgamated. In 1893, the band was dissolved to make way for a new band, and it was from the ashes of the Household Troops Band that the International Headquarters Staff Band (now known as the International Staff Band) was formed.
In 1985, Captain John Mott formed a new Household Troops Band with members drawn from the A-band at the National School of Music at Cobham Hall. This Band undertook a week-long tour of seaside towns in the south of England. Interest in the Band continued and in 1996 Major John Mott formed a new band to conduct annual tours. The Band has continued to be active ever since, not only conducting tours at home and abroad, but also fulfilling other engagements too. In October 2010, Major John Mott retired as bandmaster and the Band’s former principal cornet Carl Saunders from Cardiff Canton Corps was appointed bandmaster.
The Household Troops Band of today is different to other Salvation Army bands in three key areas. First, members of the Band still wear the distinctive white pith helmets, which attract so much attention. The second difference is that the band does not hold regular rehearsals. With players in the band drawn from throughout the UK, regular rehearsals are not practical. The third difference is that the band has to operate from a pool of players, as it does not have first call on its bandsmen. Quite often there can be as many as eight or nine changes of personnel from one event to another. It is a tribute to the players whose stamina, flexibility and musical skills mean the band can exist and operate to the high standards it does.
The Household Troops Band takes its mission to spread the Word of God through music very seriously and five members of the Band have gone on to become full-time officers in The Salvation Army. Also, one of the features of the band is that they are seen out on the streets. They will march to afternoon open-air venues and play an outdoor concert to the public before their evening concerts. The Band frequently sees people attend Salvation Army concerts for the first time having heard the Band in the open-air. The Band has a varied programme of music and a very relaxed approach, aimed at attracting new people to The Salvation Army. Its programme of events often sees it playing to a larger number of non-Salvationists than many other Salvation Army bands. The Household Troops Band is privileged to be invited to take part in the prestigious Lord Mayor’s Show in London each year, an event with a live audience of tens of thousands and a TV audience of millions.