The Schellenbaum & Tambourstock…

Perhaps one of the most characteristic and instantly recognisable feature of the German military band was the Schellenbaum (literally ‘Bell Tree’), which, like the military bands themselves, could also be traced back to ancient Turkey. Nick-named ‘Jingling Johnny’, the Schellenbaum began its life as an actual instrument that could be shaken and rattled in percussive fashion; however, somewhat reminiscent of the standards carried by the Roman legions, it gradually evolved to carry a small banner at its top and so became the symbol of command in the Janissary armies of the period…

Having been appropriated by Turkey’s enemy Austria in the 18th century, the Schellenbaum became a feature of the armies of Poland and Russia. Ultimately adopted by the German army, the Schellenbaum was to eventually be regarded as the formal and official standard of the German military band under orders to be paraded, wherever and whenever it performed, and was to be seen in many differing forms and designs, until a form of standardisation took place in 1932, followed by a formal specification being laid down by the German High Command in 1936 shortly after the creation of the Third Reich’s new Wehrmacht in 1935…

Paraded with the band and displaying its name or unit designation, the Schellenbaum was often bought by the local military veteran’s organisation or indeed by the townsfolk of the band’s garrison or shore-based naval establishment and given as a gift to the band to cement the bond between band and the local population.

Despite a Wehrmacht order of 1936, which attempted to rationalise Schellenbaum design, individual ornamentation continued to vary from unit to unit and between the differing branches of service. However, the standard Schellenbaum consisted of an eagle & swastika, made from an aluminium-coloured, light alloy known as helumin; suspended on a hanger from the eagle’s beak hung the unit or garrison banner, whose individual decoration was left up to the unit concerned. Normally this small banner was made of silk and was elaborately decorated on the front by hand, with the town’s coat of arms or the branch of service eagle and swastika emblem, together with the name of the town or garrison hand-embroidered in gothic letters to the reverse.

Under this was fixed a large hollow sun in polished tombac with either a swastika or Kriegsmarine/Heer/Luftwaffe emblem in the centre. Under this hung a crescent, also produced of tombac, with an eagle’s head made of silver coloured argentine at either end. From both these beaks hung trails of brightly coloured red, white & black horse or buffalo hair, whilst hanging from the lower edge of the Halbmond was a row of silver-plated brass stars or swastikas, and under the Halbmond hung a large bell in tombac from whose argentine rim hung another set of small silver-plated stars or swastikas.

The whole affair was mounted on a long handle of black polished wood and whilst not heavy, the full Schellenbaum was certainly unwieldy. Therefore, the carrier had to wear a 2 inch wide black leather carrying strap over the right shoulder with a small cup at the front, into which the lower end of pole could be placed in order to keep the whole structure steady.

Due to its height, the Schellenbaum holder was usually a non-musician chosen from amongst the tallest men in the regiment; in the case of Adolf Hitler’s SS Bodyguard Division, the Leibstandarte, it was an SS-Mann by the name of Gerhard Staubel, who measured in at an awe-inspiring 6’8″ tall! As unofficial members of the band, the holders were not allowed to wear the musician’s swallowsnests, though the author has seen photographs where they were patently being worn against regulations!

Variations to the 1936 official regulations on design included that of the SS-Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, whose Schellenbaum was patterned on an older version used by the Imperial German army which sported an eagle holding lightning rods in its talons in place of a swastika, and those of some ship & shore-based bands who paraded Imperial German Navy Schellenbäume, displaying the Imperial naval eagle at the top instead of the eagle & swastika, together with an anchor to the centre of the sun instead of a swastika.

Other variations, (including this superb Luftwaffe example, left), included an eight-pointed star in place of the sun; but it was not unusual for a Schellenbaum to be paraded, unadorned, without the garrison or shore-base banner being displayed from the top eagle, (as in during musikkorps marching practice).

Not strictly a flag or banner, the Tambourstock was both a ceremonial mace & signalling device by which the drum-major issued orders & movement directions to the band under his command and it is an instantly recognisable feature of the German musikkorps.

The body of the Tambourstock was composed of a 51 inch length of brown Bengal cane, with a weighted ball and neck at one end and a point at the other, both of which were made of polished Argentine. Heer, Waffen-SS & Luftwaffe Bataillonstambourstöcke were decorated with two cords black/red/white wool each ending in a tassel with a fringe whilst the Kriegsmarine version was decorated with cords and tassels of a golden-yellow colour

During the pre-Nazi era, the army of the Reichswehr limited the use of the Tambourstock to military parades, guard duties and ceremonial tattoos (Grosser Zapfenstreich). At all other times the battalion drum-major would use his signalling bugle, held out in his right hand at arms length.

However during the Third Reich, the Tambourstock became a more regular and more commonly used item, though with its increased popularity came more stringent rules on its usage, with the German High Command ordering that it should only be used with ‘full military dignity’. Any ostentatious use, such as throwing it up into the air and catching it, was definitely frowned upon and resolutely discouraged!

The era of the Third Reich saw some drum-majors continuing to use older Imperial army, Imperial navy or Reichswehr Tambourstöcke, whilst several Prussian regiments were known to carry similar staffs that were captured from French regiments during the Franco-Prussian wars of the Napoleonic era.

In the German army bands of the new millennium, modern versions of both the Schellenbaum and the Bataillonstambourstock are paraded with pride and élan, as was captured here in the UK in October 1996 when the Bundeswehr’s Heeresmusikkorps 10′s Schellenbaum was paraded at Pembroke Castle, as a part of the military ceremonials marking the German Army’s Panzerkorps withdrawal from their long-time base at the Royal Armoured Corps Tank Ranges down at Castlemartin in South Wales…

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2014

Tomahawk Films Under Water…

I awoke the other morning, or rather I was woken, by the incessant sound of sawing..and when I finally came to with a clear enough brain and looked out of the window I could see a funny little bearded man in back garden surrounded by a huge pile of wood..and realised it was Noah building himself another Ark… and I am not surprised he is in such advanced planning as it is still raining here on the South Coast after some 2 months or so!

I cannot believe how a little country likes ours can receive so much constant rain..it seems to me as if it has been raining almost every day since before Christmas..I know we have actually had some precious rain-free days, but the overall memory to date is just a continual torrent of the wet stuff…(and as some wag said the other day, despite it being the wettest winter since records began, no doubt the Water Companies will be warning us of drought conditions later this summer..they’d better not!)

The problem seems to be constant rain streams coming across the Atlantic and they are making landfall in Devon, Cornwall & South Wales and from the news reports those parts are having a  really bad time of it, with farms under water, railway lines physically broken and still the water rises..and still the Government seems to be ‘fiddling while Rome burns’. The scuttlebutt in the pub is that whenever there is a disaster anywhere else in the non-English-speaking world, the ‘charity do-gooders’ throw their hands in the air, rush straight to the advertising companies and produce gut-wrenching, emotionally black-mailing TV adverts exhorting us to hand over more of hard–earned, (in addition to the £13 billion our governmental masters are eagerly giving away in overseas aid each year to other countries). Currently this is leaving many of us wondering if our neighbouring countries are now running similar TV Appeals urging their people to give to this growing British Flood disaster?

One joke doing the rounds aptly sums up how it works in Britain: an old couple are sitting on the roof of their house in Cornwall surrounded by rising flood water and after 5 days up there, they espy a small boat with three Red Cross volunteers speeding towards them.The old couple cry out in relief to the boat.. ’have you come to rescue us? No! shout back the volunteers, we are collecting donations for Syria!!!!

As I say dear reader, that just about sums up this country..we help everybody else yet nobody givers a ‘brass razoo’ about us poor Brits…we have to do everything ourselves.. yet on that note my little village of Twyford is pulling together, (some 13 years after our last major flood), and the past 3 days for Tomahawk have been spent in helping to fill sandbags and patrolling the rising flood water. I managed to spend 7 hours in the water with others on Sunday as the floods spread out down the valley from the Hazeley Down area, (which is full of natural springs deep within the chalk).

Indeed we have a Victorian pumping station on the outskirts of the village, so pure is our water, however though that water is great to drink, the vast amount of it is now posing a big problem as the constant fall of rain means that everywhere is just waterlogged and the hillsides can just take no more and are literally now bursting at the seams. In fact when I walked along the Hazeley Road yesterday, (which now resembles a fast-flowing river rather than tarmac road), I could see actual ‘geysers’ of water rising a foot into the air from the sodden ground in the adjacent fields and onto the road..!

Thus far about a quarter of a mile or so of road is under water and cut off to traffic and the edge of the flood has reached the centre of the village and everything is being done to stem the flow. Over the weekend all sorts of important people from the various Environment agencies came out, plus the local Member for Parliament, village councillors, TV news crews and assorted members of the press to report on progress.. and then yesterday it went quiet again with just a few of us trying to maintain the situation before more stoic local folk turned up to help fill yet further sandbags.

The main problem is now we have no idea when the rain will stop or indeed how much more water is still in the hills and yet to find its way into the torrent rushing down into the village. Thankfully we are nowhere near as bad either as our 2000 flood or indeed as the poor folk down in Devon & Cornwall are now, but we are still in danger of having some of our low lying neighbours flooded out, so the constant whirr of water pumps can he heard pumping out water from these low-lying properties is now the constant background noise.

As is often said, at times like these the old ‘Dunkirk Spirit’ kicks in with people pitching in and doing what they can to help and we now have a constant rota of people in bright yellow tabbards trying to direct traffic to ensure people can still reach the village store & cafe..but the amount of indignant people who get ratty because they can’t go where they want to is just amazing. Whilst most people are quite understanding it beggars belief that others are too dense to realise that we are in a  tricky situation. As for those who see we are struggling with the rising water yet try to drive through at high speed so sending a tidal wave over us..well it takes all our will power not to drag them from their cars and dunk their fat heads under the waves they are causing.. .you certainly see both the best & worst of people at times like these..!

So hopefully valued customers of Tomahawk Films will also understand if their orders are a little later than our usual speedy despatch as we break off from our normal day’s work here at our production offices just above the flood to pitch to help our neighbours. So far we have done 3 days on the bounce and will try to spend today back at Tomahawk HQ catching up.. but as it is now raining again we’ll try to break off tomorrow and pitch in once more, wherever we’re needed..!

Talking of Tomahawk, the floods notwithstanding our planned monthly geriatric lad’s get-together of former TV colleagues took place at our local, The Phoenix, last night and I am delighted that amongst our small gathering of 7 was the cameraman on Tomahawk Films ‘Channel Islands Occupied‘ TV documentary, Ian ‘Nobby’ Fraser (left) and my old sound-recordist buddy and former colleague on Jack Hargreaves ‘Out of Town’ series, Phil Wade.. and talking of floods, to use an appalling DJ link, (that I would certainly have been strung up for using in my radio days!) the memories of our former working lives certainly flooded back over a riotous couple of hours!

But returning to the rising water outside, we now just have to see if the submarine will return with more aid..I contacted the Ministry of Defence and they said the skipper will try to ‘come about’ when he reaches the end of the road at Morestead and hope to sedately return along Hazeley Road distributing vital supplies, (ie cider), so thankfully even with today’s severe defence budget cuts, you can still rely on the Royal Navy. .the true ‘Dunkirk Spirit’ personified..!

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2014