I got a ticket for the Jamaica Defence Force’s (JDF) Military Tattoo 2012 for Sunday, July 1! Sweet!
I never knew about this type of event before and now I understand why: “Military Tattoos are infrequently held and are usually tied to some significant national occurrence as there is a huge absorption of resources, manpower and equipment” (JIS 2012). The last JDF Military Tattoo was held in 1983 as part of the celebrations for Jamaica’s 21st year of Independence, dubbed Jamaica 21.
Jamaica Military Tattoo 2012, is being held between June 28 and July 1, under the theme: Precision, Pomp and Pageantry: The First Five Decades. It is being staged to commemorate the JDF’s 50th anniversary and Jamaica’s 50th year of Independence.
What is a Military Tattoo?
According to the JDF’s Military Tattoo 2012 website:
Historically, the term “Tattoo” dates back to the 17th century when the British Army was fighting in the low countries of Belgium and the Netherlands. The Dutch phrase “doe den tap toe” which means “turn off the taps”, was communicated by drum beat (and later by bugle call), as a warning to inn keepers to turn off the beer taps and for soldiers to return to their barracks for the night.
Today, military tattoos have evolved into elaborate displays of “marching bands, precision drill movements and dynamic military displays and performances by other non-military organisations and agencies” (JIS 2012). In fact, “tattoo” is a corruption of the second part of the above Dutch phrase, “tap toe.”
For this year’s military tattoo, several other countries’ military forces, such as military bands, are also participating, including: a regiment from Bermuda; the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force steel band; the Guyana Defence Force parachute team; the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marine from the United Kingdom; the District of Columbia National Guard from the United States; and a pipes and drums band from Canada (JIS 2012).
How many military tattoos has Jamaica had in its history?
Jamaica has had only four such military tattoos in its history:
1. Grand Naval and Military Tattoo, Thursday, February 16 – Wednesday, February 21, 1933
The Daily Gleaner for Thursday, February 16, 1933 began its feature on the Tattoo, to open that night, as follows:
Tattoo is on – the beat of the drum, the shrill call of the trumpets, will attract thousands from all over the Island to-night and for the next five nights to Up-Park Camp to witness the splendid and spectacular items of the Grand Naval and Military Tattoo; an event to be staged for the first time in the history of Jamaica.
A tattoo is not merely a display, an entertainment, it is a historic pageant of great educative value; one that reminds every spectator of the glorious events in the history of the great Empire, to which we belong; one that inspires every citizen who sees it with renewed faith in the Empire, with renewed courage to strive to uphold the principles for which the Empire stands.
Advertisement for the Grand Naval and Military Tattoo, February 16-21, 1933) (Source: The Daily Gleaner, Thursday, February 16, 1933, pg. 4)
Do you realise the tone of the opening of this article about the significance of the Grand Naval and Military Tattoo of 1933? To remind all Jamaicans about the might and significance of the “great Empire, to which we belong; one that inspires every citizen who sees it with renewed faith in the Empire, with renewed courage to strive to uphold the principls for which the Empire stands.”
What could have propelled the need for such a grand reminder to the citizens of Jamaica? Remember, this was a period of worldwide upheavals with World War I recently ending around 1918, and then there was the Wall Street Stock Market crash of 1929, which began the 10-year Great Depression that affected all Western industrialised countries (Wikipedia.com). The Great Depression has been described as the longest, most widespread, and deepest depression of the 20th century. The United Kingdom, still far from recovering from the effects of World War I at the time of the beginning of the Depression, was also greatly affected, which, in turn, affected its then dependencies, such as Jamaica.
2. Jamaica Coronation Tattoo, Tuesday, June 2 – Monday, June 8, 1953
The second military tattoo in Jamaica’s history took place between Wednesday, June 3 to Monday, June 8, 1953. This tattoo was organised to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, who was crowned on June 3 as the Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ceylon, and Pakistan, as well as taking on the role of the Head of the Commonwealth.
The Coronation Tattoo opened on Tuesday, June 2, 1953 at 8:00 p.m., and was witnessed by an estimated 15,000 persons at Up Park Camp.
3. Jamaica Military Tattoo, March 15, 16, 18-20, 1968
The third military tattoo in Jamaica’s history took place on March 15, 16, 18-20, 1968.
According to a report in the Daily Gleaner of Friday, March 22, 1968, pg. 11:
Tattoo 1968 was staged to show the people of Jamaica more about the J.D.F., as well as to raise money for the JDF and other charities
4. Jamaica – The Military Tattoo, May 30-31 and June 2-4, 1983
The celebration of Jamaica’s 21st year of Independence also involved the JDF putting on the fourth military Tattoo in the country’s history, which also coincided with the JDF’s 21st anniversary.
Jamaica Military Tattoo 1983 Advertisement (Source: The Daily Gleaner, Thursday, June 2, 1983, pg. 5)
According to a feature in the Jamaica Military Tattoo 1983 Gleaner supplement:
The … 21st Anniversary Tattoo is of special significance to the JDF, as the show also coincides with the 21st Anniversary of the Force’s inception in 1962. It is interesting to note that for the first time, the Tattoo will feature all-Jamaican organisers, performers and participants, with the exception of the visiting British Band, thus demonstrating the total Jamaican flavour of the JDF which has now truly come of age.
And now we are witnesses to the fifth Military Tattoo in Jamaica’s history, an event not to be missed by many, especially yours truly! I’ll try to take as many pictures as I can and feature them next week.
Have you ever participated, went to or know of someone who participated or attended any of these past military tattoos? Drop Jamaican Echoes a line in the comment box below and let us know. I’d love to hear from you!
Until next time…
The Daily Gleaner, Thursday, February 16, 1933
The Daily Gleaner, Tuesday, May 19, 1953
The Daily Gleaner, Thursday, March 14, 1968
The Daily Gleaner, Friday, March 22, 1968
The Daily Gleaner, Saturday, May 28, 1983
The Daily Gleaner, Thursday, June 2, 1983
o. Rodger Hutchinson/JIS (2012) All in Place for Military Tattoo