British line regiments also possessed buglers who were attached to the light infantry company. This was seemingly at odds with official regulations, which stipulated drummers. However, this is most likely an oversight in terminology typical of official memorandums from Horse Guards, whose clerks frequently used archaic terms out of habit years after practices had changed. It is likely that the drum had been found to be completely impractical for light infantry duties by the British army decades before the Napoleonic wars, and had been discarded by these units in favour of the bugle, which was more convenient to carry in a skirmish line, and was more audible over extended distances. The elite light infantry regiments formed after 1800 never had drummers as company musicians, being authorised buglers instead. Indeed, the memoirs of Private Wheeler of the 51st Light Infantry specifically mention that the only drum in his corps was the band of music’s bass drum. As the duties of the regimental light companies were completely analogous to the light infantry regiments, and their soldiers were trained to respond to bugle calls, it is certain that light infantry companies relied entirely on buglers despite outdated official regulations. The British army’s use of bugles during the War of 1812 is well documented. The Glengarry Light Infantry, one of the foremost light infantry units in Upper Canada is known to have had nineteen buglers. Unusually, the 104th Regiment used buglers throughout its companies despite being an ordinary line infantry regiment, as its colonel was a light infantry enthusiast who trained his men to fight as such. Indeed, Lt. John Le Couteur, a subaltern in the 104th’s light company recalled the regiment’s buglers playing ‘The Girl I left Behind Me’ when the regiment departed Fredericton for Upper Canada. Casualty reports from several of the major actions in the war also list the buglers of the regimental light companies being killed or wounded.
While it is commonly believed that the short, single or double-crooked form of bugle used today is the same style as was used during the Napoleonic period, this in fact is not the case. No surviving examples of this form of bugle are documented to the Napoleonic period, and pictorial evidence suggests that this style did not develop until the 1850s, continuing in use thereafter. The bugle utilised by field musicians in the
British army of the Napoleonic period was a much different instrument. One popular form was a curled or semi-circular instrument similar to the ‘cor de chasse’ used by European huntsmen, from whom light infantry had developed. These bugles were much-favoured by the light infantry of continental European armies. The trumpet and bugle manual written by Trumpet Major Hyde of the London & Westminster Light Horse (an English volunteer cavalry unit) at the behest of the Duke of York in 1797 contains a repertoire of calls for this form of bugle. However, a second type somewhat akin to a cavalry trumpet appears to have been more commonly used, as is borne out by illustrations such as the Pyne camp sketches (c. 1802) and documented examples of this type in museum collections. There is also evidence that a third form, a keyed bugle began to be used during this period, and military examples survive in several museum collections, though their mechanical complexity and concurrent fragility renders their field use at least open to question.At present the Drums are researching bugle design, and are looking to expand their use of the bugle in their musical performances and participation in re-enactments battles.