August 27 – A Famous Inniskilling Drum

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Derryman’s interesting story from the Londonderry Sentinel, Saturday, August 27, 1932

The strange and romantic adventures of the famous drum of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers during the Great War, mentioned by Captain J. H. R. Yardley, D.S.O., M.C., in an article in last evening’s ‘Belfast Telegraph’ on memories of the Battle of Le Cateau, August 26th, 1914, has a feature which will be of much local interest, in that the drummer who last played the drum, and who handed it over to a Frenchwoman at Le Cateau, was a Derryman, Drummer S. Kydd, now of Fountain Street, who himself survived some marvellous and unparallelled experienced as a British Tommy in hiding behind the German lines.

Drummer Kydd, who was only a lad of 16 when the Battle of Le Cateau took place eighteen years ago yesterday, had a remarkable story to tell a ‘Sentinel’ representative who visited him at the Sailors’ Rest, where he spends his evenings, being now a seaman at present out of regular employment.

Drummer Kydd, it may be mentioned, joined the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in 1911, and at the outbreak of the Great War he was serving as an ammunition-carrier.

In conversation with our representative, Drummer Kydd said as soon as he read the article by Captain Yardley he knew immediately that the drum referred to was the one which he had handed over to a Frenchwoman on the Retreat from Mons eighteen years ago that day. He was able to recall the happenings of that memorable day at Le Cateau, when as a mule ammunition-carrier he found that things were rather awkward for him with both the ammunition and the drum to attend to on an occasion like then. Coming along the road outside the village of Esnes he saw a country woman standing beside a barn, and on the spur of the moment he decided to hand the drum over to her, and so ease matters. Of course, young Kydd, could not explain things, but the good woman, who was one of a number of excited country people wondering what was going to happen them, took the drum.

‘At the time,’ said Drummer Kydd, ‘I thought she would throw it aside or burn it. I did not know what she would do with it. I never thought then that she would have kept it so faithfully. It must have been, indeed, a secret hiding-place where she kept it, as the Germans were continually on the look out for anything of the sort.’

The Germans were in possession afterwards, but the Frenchwoman kept the drum safely concealed, probably having buried it.

The drum was handed over to a Canadian regiment, who took over the village and collected all the belongings of British regiments. The Frenchwoman at once delivered up the drum, which was given back to the 2nd Inniskillings, who treasured it for its romantic associations, and when the battalion was disbanded in 1924 the drum was handed over to the Museum of the Royal United Services Institution at Whitehall.

It is interesting to know that Drummer Kydd’s name was inscribed on the skin of the drum, which, after its restoration to the battalion, was stored up with the plate and silver of the battalion.

Drummer Kydd was later reported killed. He had been in hiding for three years in St Quentin as an escaped prisoner, and was later sentenced to be shot as a spy, but was reprieved, being an Irishman, and was released in January 1919, from a German prison, rejoining his battalion later. For some years past he has been a seaman.

Acknowledgment – The Theipval Gallery

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