The Honourable Artillery Company is the oldest regiment in the British Army and probably the oldest military unit in the world with unbroken service which still bears arms operationally.
It is doubtful whether the Company possessed an official band prior to the 1760s although, one of the first mentions of HAC regimental music is in June 1684 when James, Duke of York, the HAC’s Captain General (and later James II), led the Company on a general march followed by a banquet, to the background of fifes, hautbois (a type of oboe) and other music. Additionally in 1696 three hautbois were used by the regiment in the Lord Mayors’ Day Parade; it is probable, however, that these musicians were specially hired for such activities rather than being members of the Company.
The word ‘band’ was also not in use at this period the regiment’s musical group was referred to as the ‘Music’, and the instrumentalists were known as the ‘musicians’ of the regiment.
The Grenadier Company is reported to have regularly employed three hautbois and a courtail (a type of bassoon), and therefore had its own music independent of the Regiment. In 1711 the Grenadiers were temporarily replaced by Fusiliers who received the allowance of £4 ‘for drums, music, grenades, etc., usually granted to the Grenadiers’ [Honourable Artillery Company 1537 – 1987, G Goold Walker (1987), p. 114]. Court orders of June 1744 state that no more than two bottles of wine should be allowed for the musicians after a parade through the City in June 1744 [History of the Honourable Artillery Company, GA Raikes (1878), Vol, p.312].