The first Bandmaster, Mr. Charles Hassell, was appointed on 21st November 1900 and the Band began to form, largely from bandsmen transferring from regiments of the line.
The first mention of the Band appearing came on 1st April 1901: ‘The lately-formed Band of the Irish Guards has been ordered to provide the musicians for the Sunday Parade Services of Wellington and Chelsea Barracks for six months’. On Thursday 9th May the Band of the Irish Guards ‘will parade with the Band of the Grenadier Guards and the two bands will be massed for Trooping the Colour’ (Guard Mounting from Horse Guards). Following the parade, they joined with the other bands of The Brigade of Guards at St. Peter’s Institute, Buckingham Palace Road, to begin massed bands rehearsals for the King’s Birthday Parade.
The Band formed part of the Massed Bands at the King’s Birthday Parade on 24th May, the first for King Edward VII and the first at which the Sovereign took the salute on Horse Guards Parade. However, its first major parade on its own took place on Wednesday 12th June 1901 for the presentation of South African War medals by King Edward VII on Horse Guards Parade, supporting a Guard of Honour provided by 1st Battalion Irish Guards.
The Band quickly gained a reputation for excellence as evidenced by the glowing press reports in 1905 from what turned out to be the first of many tours of Canada. The citizens of Toronto were so impressed with its performance that they presented the Band with an ornate silver cup, which to this day remains one of its cherished possessions.
On the outbreak of the First World War the Band was kept very busy sustaining morale at home and encouraging recruitment. On 29th July 1916, and again on 21st December 1917, it took its turn with the other Foot Guards bands to undertake a three-month tour of duty with the Guards Division in France and Belgium, giving numerous concerts to the men during their rest periods to help raise their spirits and inject some small element of normality into their lives. In May 1917 it was part of the Massed Bands that made a visit to Paris at the request of the French government and this was the first time that all five Foot Guards bands had been on parade together. A similar visit was made to Rome in February 1918.
During the Second World War the Band sailed to Algiers on 27th October 1943 and gave numerous concerts to the troops during the North African and Italian campaigns, reaching Naples, and finally returning home in May 1944. In 1948, the Band travelled to Palestine to support the Guards battalions involved in the troubles. In more recent times, three members of the Band served in the first Gulf War of 1990/91, and in June 1999 the Band deployed to Kosovo as part of a NATO peacekeeping force.
It is believed by the BBC Archivist that the Irish Guards was the very first military band to broadcast, the programme going out ‘live’ on the 23rd January 1923 on the 2LO station. Since that day, the Band appeared regularly on programmes such asMusic While You Work, Listen to the Band, Marching and Waltzing and Friday Night is Music Night. In 1953 it was chosen for what was a landmark broadcast, with the UK premiere performance of Paul Hindemith’s Symphony in Bb for Concert Band.