Customs

CUSTOMS OF THE SKNDF

The Last Post

The “Last Post” is one of a number of bugle calls in military tradition that mark the phases of the day. “Reveille” signalled the start of a soldier’s day, the “Last Post” signalled its end. It is believed originally to have been part of a more elaborate routine known in the British Army as “tattoo” that had its origins in the 17th century. During the evening, a duty officer had to do the rounds of his unit’s position, checking that the sentry posts were manned and rounding up the off-duty soldiers and packing them off to their billets. One or more musicians would accompany him.

The “first post” was sounded when the duty officer started his rounds and, as the party proceeded from post to post, a drum was played.

The drum beats told off-duty soldiers it was time to rest – if the soldiers were billeted in a town, the beats told them it was time to quit the pubs. “Tattoo” is a derivation of doe den tap toe, Dutch for “turn off the taps”, a call that is said to have followed the drum beats in many a Dutch pub while English armies were campaigning through Holland and Flanders in the 1690s. (It is also from this routine that American practice of “taps” or “drum taps” originated.)

Another bugle call was sounded when the party completed their rounds, when they reached the “last post”: this signalled the night sentries were alert at their posts and gave one last warning to any soldiers still at large that it was time to retire for the evening. “Last Post” was incorporated into funeral and memorial services as a final farewell and symbolises that the duty of the dead is over and that they can rest in peace.

Reveille & the Rouse

“Reveille” originated in medieval times, possibly around 1600, to wake the soldiers at dawn; “Rouse” was the signal for the soldier to arise. Rouse is the bugle call more commonly used in conjunction with the Last Post and to the layman is often incorrectly called Reveille. Although associated with the Last Post, Reveille is rarely used because of its length. Today, the Rouse is associated with the last Post at all military funerals and services of dedication and remembrance. It is played on the completion of one minute’s silence, after the Last Post has been sounded. It calls the soldier’s spirit to rise and prepare for another day.

Why the Parade Ground Sacred

After a battle, when retreat was sounded and the unit has reassembled to call the roll and count the dead, a hollow square was formed. The dead were placed within the square and no one used the area as a thoroughfare. Today, the parade ground represents this square and hence, a unit’s dead. It is deemed to be hallowed ground, soaked with the blood of our fallen and the area is respected as such by all.

Paying Compliments (Saluting)

All enlisted member of the St Kitts Nevis Defence Force pay compliments to officers by means of hand salute when in uniform and wearing headdress. The Coast Guard unlike the St Kitts Nevis Regiment also salute without headdress.

When entering and leaving a room, enlisted members always salute the officer who is in their at the time. With the exception of females members of the SKNDF when entering a church or place of divine worship shall remove their headdress. The same applies whenever a member sits other than in a motor vehicle.

When in uniform soldier will always salute uncased colors, military funerals. When in plain clothes they will stand at attention.

When the national anthem is being played soldiers in military uniform should stand to attention. If in plain clothes and wearing a hat, he should remove it.

Soldiers should stand to attention during “colours” or Flag raising/lowering ceremonies.