Military bands formed the essence of Armed Forces Day celebrations

By S Sgt Itumeleng Makhubela
Photos by L Cpl Paul Mpangala

The National Ceremonial Guard (NCG) band makes military occasions eventful and did not hold back at the 2018 Armed Force Day Parade in Kimberley. In a spectacle of thousands that came to witness the parade at the Cenotaph World War Monument; their seamless performance proved to be something worth noting.   

“It is always a privilege to perform in this event and carry the name of the SANDF as a whole. Participating in events like this is the highlight in the calendar for the year.” Explains the Director of Music at the NCG Band, Maj Andrew Strugnell

He believes that such parades are always an opportunity for them to display their capabilities and bring the SANDF to the public. Maj Strugnell said they also act as a marketing tool for the defence force and as such, make people aware of what they do and how we are actually part of the community.

The band has witnessed some historical moments in the history of the country, dating back to the inauguration of the first democratically elected president till to date. Maj Strugnell said the band has gained some reputation over the years: “As a bandsman and director of music we have witnessed history first-hand. The first presidential inauguration we were there and all the subsequent inaugurals. We also performed at the funeral of the late and the first commander-in-chief of the SANDF, President Nelson Mandela.”

Preparing for the Armed Forces Day parade is a huge task in terms of logistical arrangements for the band. Organising the music beforehand, which include a lot of rehearsals requires focus and strength. Another important part is getting the music right, especially during the actual performance to portray a good image to members of the public.

Maj Strugnell said it is interesting to notice that members of the public are moved by the music they play as they do not get to see the NCG band play more often. He said they react very well to the music because they play mostly South African songs that are known to people and they enjoy it.

“The reaction from the crowd is fantastic, I mean speaking to people afterwards they said they like that we are here now as nothing much happens in Kimberley. This is a highlight for us and I think we are doing a good job of promoting the SANDF.

The Armed Forces Day parade involves everybody as all the bands are represented, which is different from other parades when it is only the NCG band and a small guard of honour. Part of the Armed Forces Day celebrations was the musical concert that we did which involved all the bands which was another way of reaching to the Community.” He said.

Maj Strugnell believes that the Armed Forces Day parade is entirely different from any other parade owing to the extra elements and the size of the parade. There are two parts to the parade, which are the main parade where the President is the functionary and then the march past by the marching columns and the mechanised columns. He said the band’s direct involvement in terms of the parade is when the President stands on the podium.

“We come in and do the street lining with the Flag Company and Guard of Honour at the start of the parade when we play the national anthem once the president is on the podium. After the president is done with the speech and handing the medals, follows the handing over of the flag to the alternative SANDF service which will be the head executor of the next Armed Forces Day parade.

Once that is done we march off and then come in the marching columns and the mechanised columns. Once it is done we come again and pay the final compliments to the president and play the national salute again. I feel this really displays our capabilities.” He said.

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