Royal Hamilton Light Infantry Band

Royal Hamilton Light Infantry Band. Formed in 1866 by Peter Grossman as the 13th Battalion Band, at the request of the commander of the 13th Battalion Voluntary Militia, and known under a succession of names as the name of the battalion changed.

Royal Hamilton Light Infantry Band

Royal Hamilton Light Infantry Band. Formed in 1866 by Peter Grossman as the 13th Battalion Band, at the request of the commander of the 13th Battalion Voluntary Militia, and known under a succession of names as the name of the battalion changed. It was called the band of the 13th Regiment 1900-10, of the 13th Royal Regiment 1910-20, of the Royal Hamilton Regiment 1920-7, and of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry 1927-57 and 1962-8.

Grossman, who had been the bandmaster of Hamilton's first military band (founded in 1856, attached to the Independent Artillery Company of the militia), led the 13th Battalion Band until 1869. He was succeeded for one year by George R. Robinson, who, in turn, was succeeded for one year by W. Blachard. Robinson, a graduate of the RSMS (Kneller Hall), London. Robinson returned in 1871 and remained bandmaster until 1916. In keeping with the latest developments in US bands, Robinson added clarinets, saxophones, french horns, flute, oboe, and bassoon to the usual complement of cornets, trombones, euphoniums, and tuba.

During its first 10 years of existence the disciplined 40-piece band competed successfully throughout eastern Canada and the northeastern USA. It was the principal band at the 'Peace Jubilee' at Berlin (Kitchener) in 1871 and played for the governor-general and his wife during their visit to Hamilton in 1879. In 1900 the band was invited to give a concert for the Maple Leaf Club of Denver, Col, and in 1901 were chosen to play at a state dinner in Toronto in honour of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York (later King George V and Queen Mary). During a tour of England in 1919, the RHLI gave a command performance for King Edward VII.

Every winter for many years, under the auspices of the 13th Battalion, the band gave weekly public concerts in the Drill Shed. In the summer it often filled as many as five or six engagements a week, including garden parties, park concerts, and moonlight excursions aboard paddle-wheel steamers on Lake Ontario.

By 1912 five of its former members had become bandmasters with other Canadian militia bands.

Robinson was the first in the militia to receive the honorary commission of bandmaster with the rank of lieutenant. He remained senior to all other bandmasters in the service until his retirement in 1917. Walter, one of Robinson's three sons, all of whom were band members, succeeded his father in 1916 and served as bandmaster until 1924. Under his direction the band won first prize at the 1921 CNE competition. He was succeeded by David Anderson, who served for 10 years. Robinson returned to lead the band 1936-9. The RHLI performed for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) in Hamilton during their Royal visit in 1939.

Bandmasters subsequent to Walter Robinson were W. Sharman 1939-42, H.J. Holder 1942-50, H.G. Patterson 1950-7, L. Sharman 1961-6, and A.T. Dharmaratnam 1966-8.

The band was disbanded in 1957, reconstituted in 1962 for the regimental centennial, disbanded again in 1972 and once again revived in 1992 under the direction of Major Michael A. Rehill. Since 1992 the band has performed at numerous tattoos, festivals and military celebrations. In 1996 the band performed for HRH the Prince of Wales and led the 1996 Grey Cup parade. Keeping with tradition during royal visits, the RHLI performed for the Queen during her visits to Canada in 1998 and in 2002. The band also travelled to Europe in 2002, giving performances in England and as the official Canadian Forces Band commemorating the 60th Anniversary in Dieppe, France.

The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry Band is the oldest enlisted band in Canada.

See Bands; Band Festivals


Further Reading

  • Semper Paratus, ed Bereton Greenhous (Hamilton 1977)