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Mountbatten Music


The Preobrajensky Regiment was formed by Tsar Peter I 'the Great' of Russia (1672-1725) in the late 17th Century and soon distinguished itself in various military campaigns and in 1762 was declared the highest in military precedence.  Its membership was generally to young Russian aristocrats and considered proof of loyalty to the Tsar.  It is unclear who the composer of the regimental march was - although it is attributed to "Donajowsky", but soon became a patriotic song throughout Imperial Russia.  In 1882, Tsar Alexander III of Russia (1845-1894) appointed his brother - Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich (1857-1905) to the post of Commander of the Regiment.


In 1884, the Grand Duke married Princess Elisabeth 'Ella' of Hesse & By the Rhine (1864-1918) - who took the name Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, the daughter of Grand Duke Louis IV of Hesse & By the Rhine (1837-1892) and Princess Alice (1843-1878) - the second daughter of Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901) and was therefore an uncle to Mountbatten. Princess Elisabeth's younger sister - Princess Alexandra 'Alix' of Hesse & By the Rhine (1872-1918) married Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (1868-1918) in 1894.  Whilst travelling alone in his carriage in 1918, Grand Duke Sergei was murdered - a bomb was thrown into his carriage, which landed in his lap.  Following his death, his wife retired from Court life and founded the Russian Orthodox Covent of Martha & Mary and dedicated herself to the care of Moscow's poor and suffering.  She was murdered in the Russian Revolution in 1918 and subsequently was canonised as a Holy Martyr.

The Massed Bands of HM Royal Marines performing at

Beating Retreat, Horse Guards Parade, London

- June 2014 marking the 93rd Birthday of 

Prince Philip, 1st Duke of Edinburgh

(Captain-General of HM Royal Marines)

& the 350th Anniversary of the founding

of HM Royal Marines


Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna
(Princess Elisabeth of Hesse & By the Rhine)

with her husband -

Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia

Tsar Nicholas II 'gave' the march to King Alfonso XIII of Spain (1886-1941) at the time of his marriage in 1906 to Mountbatten's cousin - Princess Victoria Eugénie of Battenberg (1887-1969). She was the only daughter (and second child) of Prince Henry of Battenberg (1858-1896) and The Princess Beatrice (1857-1944), the youngest child of Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901). In 1922, it was King Alfonso XIII who 'gave" the march to Mountbatten at the time of his wedding to Edwina, in honour of his Russian uncles - The Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich and Tsar Nicholas II. From 1941, the march was played for Mountbatten, as a kind of personal honour by all the Naval bands under his command when he appeared at official functions.

​ Lt-Col. Sir Vivian Dunn, Principal Director of Music, HM Royal Marines ​

Lt-Col. Sir Vivian Dunn,

Principal Director of Music,

HM Royal Marines

In 1964 at the request of Mountbatten, Lt-Col. Sir Vivian Dunn (1908-1995), the Principal Director of Music of HM Royal Marines updated his 1934 arrangement of the march to commemorate the Tercentenary (300 yrs) of the founding of the Corps, which Mountbatten presented the score to the Corps' Captain-General (his nephew) - Prince Philip, 1st Duke of Edinburgh (1921-2021).  Dunn's arrangement was first performed at the Beating Retreat Ceremony at Horse Guards Parade, London on 10th June 1964 and was adopted as the official regimental slow march. Mountbatten personally inscribed the music score. Mountbatten wrote to Dunn and said - "I think the 'Dunned Up' version of the Preobrajensky March is really excellent.  I was standing next to The Queen and Her Majesty thought it quite outstanding and most moving." On 3rd August 1965, Mountbatten was appointed Life Colonel Commandant of HM Royal Marines.  



The Mountbatten March was composed by Lt-Col. Sir Vivian Dunn (1908-1995), the former Principal Director of Music of HM Royal Marines.  He retired to Haywards Heath, West Sussex in 1968 and received a letter from Mountbatten stating that a junior bandsman had contacted Mountbatten asking for permission to call his new march "Mountbatten" in his honour.

However, Dunn had apparently told Mountbatten some time ago that he had planned to compose a march in retirement with the intention of calling it "Mountbatten".  A year later Dunn sent a pianoforte score to Mountbatten at Broadlands. The march included snippets of "Rule Britannia", "A Life on the Ocean Wave" and of course "The Preobrajensky March"  and was first publicly performed at The Royal Tournament in 1971.


The Band of HM Royal Marines performing

"The Mountbatten March"



This unfinished composition was also by Lt-Col. Sir Vivian Dunn (1908-1995), the former Principal Director of Music of HM Royal Marines.  Dunn had started a suite for orchestra and concert band in 1979 in honour of Mountbatten, but Mountbatten's murder by the IRA on 27th August 1979 deeply affected him - he had lost not only a  mentor, but a close friend and ally.  However Mountbatten's untimely death did spur Dunn on to complete the suite. 

In November 1979, the concert march "Man of Action", which Dunn planned to be the suite's third movement was completed.  By April 1980, Dunn had completed the second movement, a pastoral orchestral work entitled "Broadlands, the Serenity of an English Country House" which received its first public performance in 1982. However, due to illness he was unable to complete the first movement - a prelude entitled "Man of Destiny" and the final movement "Classiebawn Castle, For Whom the Bells Tolls For Thee".


In 2000, Dunn's son asked Robert Farnon (1917-2005) an established composer for film and television to try and complete the first movement "Man of Destiny".  He sought permission from Mountbatten's eldest daughter - Patricia, later 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma (1924-2017) and Lt-Col Richard Waterer (1950-2006), then Principal Director of Music of HM Royal Marines arranged for the score to be published.  "Man of Destiny" received its first public performance in October 2000.

Mountbatten - Life Colonel Commandant of HM Royal Marines at Broadlands

ABOVE: Mountbatten at Broadlands

in the uniform as

Life Colonel Commandant of HM Royal Marines

INSET: Lt-Col. Richard Waterer,

then Principal Director of Music,

HM Royal Marines



"The Mountbatten Cantata" was written in 2009 by Thai composer S. P. Somtow - a rearrangement of his real name Somtow Papinian Sucharitkul (b.1952) with text by Nobel Prize winner - Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941).  The composition had its European premiere in September 2011 at St George's RC Cathedral, Southwark, London.  It was performed by the Fairhaven Singers of Cambridge and the Siam Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Trisdee na Patalung (b.1986).

"I must launch out my boat.

The languid hours pass by on the shore -

Alas for me!

The spring has done its flowering and taken leave.

And now with the burden of faded futile flowers I wait and linger.

The waves have become clamorous, and upon the bank in the shady lane the yellow leaves flutter and fall.

What emptiness do you gaze upon!

Do you not feel a thrill passing through the air with the notes of the far-away song floating from the other shore?"


ABOVE: S.P. Somtow

LEFT: A film of the European premiere

of S.P. Somtow's

"Mountbatten Cantata"

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