“Royal Welch Fusiliers” (1930)
These two marches were composed to commemorate the association of U.S. Marines with the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion in China. The occasion was the thirtieth anniversary of the battle of Tientsin.
A march to honor the Fusiliers had actually been requested five years earlier by General George Richards of the Marine Corps in a letter dated December 11, 1924. In this letter, he suggested the exact title which Sousa eventually used. Sousa replied that he had numerous other commissions at the moment but that he was enthusiastic about the idea. A march was not written until General Wendelle G. Neville made a second request in 1929.
The fact that two separate marches were composed was revealed in an exchange of letters between Sousa and Neville. Late in 1929, Sousa composed a medley-march which included “World Turned Upside Down,” “Hymn of the Marines,” “Men of Harlech,” and “God Bless the Prince of Wales.” When he asked Neville’s opinion, Neville replied that he would prefer an original Sousa composition. So Sousa composed a second march, and this is the one known today.
“The Royal Welch Fusiliers” (No. 2) was given its premiere in the presence of President Hoover. This took place at the annual Gridiron Club dinner in Washington at the Willard Hotel on April 26, 1930. Sousa conducted members of the Marine Band in the new march, and President Hoover spoke, giving his own personal account of the Boxer Rebellion. He had been a mining engineer in China at the time and was besieged at Tientsin, where he was in charge of civil defense. The march was given a public premiere on the White House lawn on May 12 for the benefit of newsreel companies. These newsreels provided one of the few motion pictures of Sousa which have survived, and they show Sousa conducting the Marine Band with President Hoover, the British ambassador, and other dignitaries looking on.
Sousa was asked to travel to Wales with Marine Corps officers so that he could personally present his manuscript to the Fusiliers. He obliged, and on June 25 at Tidworth he conducted the band of the 2ndBattalion, Royal Welch Fusiliers, in the march’s first performance in Britain. He presented his original manuscript, handsomely bound, to General Charles M. Dobelle, commandant of the Fusiliers. Today this manuscript is preserved at Caernarvon Castle.
Paul E. Bierley, The Works of John Philip Sousa (Westerville, Ohio: Integrity Press, 1984), 81. Used by permission.
*PLEASE NOTE: Currently, none of the marches from Volume 7 are in the public domain. Recordings of non-PD marches are only available for streaming on YouTube. To purchase a published edition of this march, please visit the sheet music vendor of your choice.