In the era of muskets and closed troop formations, musicians marched together with the solders and played marching music even during the battle.

When was the last time such practices were used in battle?

In the USA Civil War they were certainly used, and I would guess in WW1 they were no longer used. Is it possible to narrow it down even further?

I would guess the Franco-Prussian war was technologically not too much different from the American Civil War. Could that be the answer?

  • There is a whole bunch of guesswork in this question. Please perform preliminary research
    – MCW
    Jun 4, 2018 at 14:39
  • A simple Google of 'bagpipes ww1' will give you plenty of information. Jun 4, 2018 at 18:27
  • Note that military bands still exist. Today they do not play their instruments on the battlefield, instead in combat situations they will be available as additional manpower to their unit -- perhaps carrying stretchers or guarding POWs.
    – o.m.
    Jun 4, 2018 at 18:45

2 Answers 2



One later example of the use of a band in combat occurred during the Vietnam War when U.S. Army Major-General John Hay ordered the 1st Infantry Division band to march down a road held by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) while playing the "Colonel Bogey March". NVA forces were, reportedly, so confused by the impromptu parade that they withdrew from the area, allowing American infantry to seize the road without opposition.

Wikipedia sources this from the website for the 1st Infantry Division Band, which indicates this happened on the notorious "Thunder Road" between Saigon and Quan Loi, but the description on the band's website does not date the incident. Mother Jones says this happened in March, 1969.

There is also a list of campaigns the band served in.The last campaign listed is the first Gulf War in 1991.However, none of the others have any description of combat, so this incident during the Vietnam War was probably the last time for them.

  • Music is powerful. Shame for them they didn't try that for the rest of the country
    – T.E.D.
    Apr 10, 2017 at 13:30
  • It was my mistake of not specifying "regular use", or that the music has to be played in a shooting battle, not just as a stunt. It's still an interesting enough answer so I consider accepting it, but it would be useful to also include the last "traditional" use of the marching band in battle, marching alongside troops as they are actively fighting, as that was my original intention with the question.
    – vsz
    Apr 14, 2017 at 19:55

Your title says 'bands' and the question uses 'musicians' in the plural, so this is going to be a bit of a stretch, but I can't pass up this opportunity to whip out 'Mad' Jack Churchill.


Norway (1941)

Churchill was second in command of No. 3 Commando in Operation Archery, a raid on the German garrison at Vågsøy, Norway, on 27 December 1941. As the ramps fell on the first landing craft, he leapt forward from his position playing "March of the Cameron Men" on his bagpipes, before throwing a grenade and charging into battle. For his actions at Dunkirk and Vågsøy, Churchill received the Military Cross and Bar.

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