[Sheet music] The great little army

Accession Number RC11064
Collection number Sheet Music Collection 579
Collection type Published Collection
Measurement Overall - closed: 32 cm x 24 cm
Object type Sheet Music
Maker Alford, Kenneth J
Place made Australia: New South Wales, Sydney
Date made c 1926
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Copying Provisions Recording provided for personal, non-commercial and commemorative use. Permission from copyright holder must be sought for commercial use. Attached digital images provided for personal non-commercial use

Sheet music for the instrumental march titled, 'The Great Little Army', composed by English composer and Bandmaster Frederick Joseph Ricketts under the pseudonym Kenneth J. Alford in 1916. The song was written to honour the British and Allied victories during the First World War.

This arrangement for solo piano, was published as part of the series 'Popular marches played by regimental bands of the British Army', and is advertised as being 'specially featured at the Dunedin Exhibition 1925-1926 by the 93rd Highlanders Band under conductorship of Kenneth J. Alford.' The cover of the sheet music features a Foot Guard's Drum Major in ceremonial dress.

Frederick Ricketts enlisted as a band boy in the Royal Irish Regiment in 1895 and recommended by his bandmaster, Mr J Phillips, for entry into the Royal Military School of Music as a student bandmaster. He was posted as bandmaster to the 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Band in 1908 and joined them in South Africa. He started composing music under the pseudonym Kenneth J Alford as he wanted to compose music but this was not highly regarded for commissioned officers. His first peice of published music under this pseudonym was 'Holyrood' which was published by Hawkes and Son, London, in 1912.

The march titled, 'The great little army' is one of several marches that Ricketts wrote during the First World War period with other marches were written just before or during the First World War, including 'Colonel Bogey' (1914); 'The voice of the guns' (1916); and 'The vanished army' (1918). Ricketts was posted to Edinburgh with the 3rd Battalion (Reserves) for the duration of the First World War.

Towards the bottom of this page is a sound recording of this sheet music, or a parody, that was created as part of the Music and the First World War project. More information about this recording, including names of the performers, can be found on the catalogue record for the sound recording. A link to the catalogue record for the sound recording can be found at the bottom of this page, under the heading ‘Related objects’ where it can be identified with the prefix [sound recording].

History / Summary

The march titled 'The great little army' was written during the First World War period and was a popular choice for regimental marches. It was adopted for this purpose by the 49th Battalion and the 60th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force. Since that time, the march has also been adopted by military units in other countries as well. The most recent of these was its adoption by the Canadian Army as their official march in June 2013. It is also the regimental quick march for the 2nd Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment.

This instrumental march was very popular with community bands at concerts held in Australia during the First World War. Although the march was only written in 1916, it was already being performed in Australia before the end of that year. The first band to perform this piece was the New South Wales Military Band who performed it on Sunday 19 November 1916 at 7.30pm in Hyde Park under the baton of Captain Bentley. There were further performances during December 1916 with another performance by the New South Wales State Military Band and the Sydney Kilties Brass Band. This piece of music was also played as part of a musical program specially performed by the Ballarat City Band in recognition of a recruiting appeal. The concert was held after church services during the evening of 10 February 1918.

The relationship between what the bands were playing at home and the music that the soldiers at the Front were playing emerged during early 1917. The secretary of the Stawell Brass Band, Mr S Freeland, received a copy of the music for 'The Great Little Army' as a New Year present. The copy was provided by Private Stanley Gordon Illig and his brother George Amos Illig, who both served with the 39th Battalion and had previously been members of the Stawell Band. The receipt of the music was recorded with the comment in the local newspaper, 'The action and thoughtfulness of the lads....are keenly appreciated by the local bandsmen, who are, naturally enough, eager to make use fo their soldier comrades' presentation.' Similarly, the Maryborough City Band, Queensland, performed a program of music that primarily consisted of music donated by Major John Edward Christoe, which included 'The Great Little Army.' Christoe served with the 41st Battalion during the First World War and sent the music home from London. Corporal Charles Ross was another soldier to send the music for this march home to his former band while on active service. His donation was recognised in regards to the inclusion of the piece in a performance by the Warnambool Citizens' Band at the Bowling Green, Warnambool, on Saturday 19 October 1918.

This piece of music was very popular with returned service personnel during the First World War and afterwards. The Returned Soldiers' Military Band at Bendigo, led by Drum Major F Gill and bandmaster J Robotton, consisted of thirty returned soldiers and played 'The Great Little Army' during the Easter Monday procession in Bendigo on 1 April 1918. 'The Great Little Army' was reported in the account of this event to be 'dedicated to General French's first army that went to France'. Likewise, it was part of the program presented by the Gallipoli Memorial Band to inmates of No 6 Kangaroo Point Military Hospital on 7 July 1918. The band was touring Australia and was composed entirely of returned service personnel under bandmaster C P Mayall.