The band, originally known as The RAF Seletar Maintenance Base Pipes and Drums, was formed in 1948. Permission was granted by the Duke of Hamilton – Chieftain of the Douglas Clan – for the band to wear kilts of the Ancient Douglas Tartan. At its peak, the band had a membership on thirty, which included eighteen pipers. All members were volunteers, drawn from all three services, and all three RAF stations on the island, although the majority were from Seletar based units. At its peak, the band had a membership of thirty, 18 of them pipers.
During its history, it is believed that Seletar’s Pipes and Drums only ever had one female member, a piper – Seletar based SACW Patricia Reid; at the time serving with the Far East School of Joint Warfare.
Youngest member of the band of 10 pipers and six drummers was 14-years-old Walter Scales, son of an RAF Corporal at Seletar, who was taught to play the side drums from scratch by Drum Sergeant Stanley Pike.
Since its formation the pipes & Drums have been heard far and wide throughout the Far Eastand Australasia: the Philippines, Australia, Hong Kong, Malaya, Sabah, Labuan, Sarawak, Thailand, Ceylon, as well as at stations and units in Singapore. They led parades, played at Battle of Britain Day events, disbandment ceremonies, church fetes, galas, sports events and service functions, as well as at social functions galore, including those of the Singapore Government. Their lament has also been heard at service funerals.
Increasing difficulties in maintaining the Pipes and Drums were expected with the British bases run-down in Singapore and the planned early closure of Seletar as a flying station.
The RAF Seletar Pipes & Drums were disbanded after 20 well travelled years and several hundred engagements, some of them disbandment parades for other FEAF units and squadrons. They finally marched out on their own farewell parade, a Beating the Retreat ceremony, on November 22nd 1968, under the watchful eye of Station Commander and Reviewing Officer, Group Captain TWA Hutton.
During the parade the Pipe Major’s banner was handed over to Group Captain Hutton. The intention was that this banner, along with the Pipe Major and Drum Major’s sashes, be presented to the RAF Museum.
The RAF Ensign was lowered to the strains of ‘Sunset’, one of the 15 marches, reels, strathspeys and Retreat tunes played by the Pipes and Drums during the ceremony.
Sad though the disbanding ceremony was, the parade did not marks the end of all pipes playing at Seletar. Many of the band members possess their own pipes and until they are posted from Singapore, they hope to continue playing at various functions, particularly over Christmas and the New Year, when demands for pipers far outstrip supply.