BBC Scotland Filming Local Bagpiper in Surrey BC for WWI Documentary

Last year I did a story on Garth Newlands and his bagpipes, and their connection through his grandfather to the First World War. Garth, a longtime Surrey resident, is a pipe major and instructor with Surrey’s Cedar Hills Caledonian Pipe Band. They play many local venues including the upcoming 2013 Surrey Marathon and BC Lions Half Time Show.

Pipe Major Garth Newlands at Surrey Canada Day Celebrations
(Pipe Major Garth Newlands [far right] at Surrey Canada Day Celebrations 2013. Surrey604 photo.)

In the First World War, bagpipers were used as psychological weapons to inspire the Canadian troops and scare the enemy. Bagpipers bravely volunteered for the honour of leading the charge from the trenches and the casualty rate among pipers was truly horrific.

Over in Scotland recently, a BBC documentary filmmaker, Andy Twaddle was doing research on World War I pipers and he stumbled onto my Surrey604 article. Andy called Garth and suggested he’d like to come here and incorporate him into his documentary about WWI bagpipers.

Andy Twaddle of BBC Scotland
(Andy Twaddle of BBC Scotland is coming to Surrey this weekend to film Garth. Source:

As you’ll see in my article, Garth’s grandfather had an oddly similar battlefield story to that of a famous Canadian Victoria Cross winning WWI bagpiper, James Cleland Richardson. Richardson’s bagpipes, lost for decades in Europe, were recently claimed and are now on display in the Victoria Legislature. There’s also a statue of Richardson at a museum in Chilliwack, BC!

(Piper James Richardson of the 16th Battalion, depicted in the painting above, won the Victoria Cross for his bravery in playing the bagpipes above the trenches in the Battle of the Somme, while exposed to intense enemy fire for an estimated 20 minutes. Piper Richardson is the only Canadian piper to have won the Victoria Cross, the highest of all British and Canadian military decorations. The painting depicting Richardson’s gallantry was by James Prinsep Beadle. The original hangs in the Officers’ Mess of the Royal Scots Regiment in Edinburgh. Source:

In their phone call, Andy asked Garth about Piper Richardson. In a strange twist of fate, Garth revealed that there was a connection between one of his piping students, Stefanie Richardson and both of their WWI era ancestors. Garth’s grandfather and Stefanie’s great uncle, James Cleland Richardson where in Val Cartier, Salisbury Plain and France together! Although in different Battalions (the 15th and 16th) they would have known each other as regiment pipe bands played together during the war.

Both relatives would have been at Vimy Ridge during the Battle of the Somme within a few hundred meters of each other when Richardson was killed according to daily war diaries from National Archives. Although no names are given, the location of units are identified and service cards indicate Garth’s grandfather was at Vimy that fateful day Piper Richardson was killed. I thought Garth’s story alone was incredible, but this is downright amazing! No wonder the BBC is flying here to film it.

BBC film crews will arrive in Surrey this weekend to gather footage of Garth’s family, their stories and WWI artifacts. They will also interview the Cedar Hills Caledonian Pipe Band at the Central City Brew Pub at 5pm Saturday. I’ll be there, filming my own documentary of the day’s events for Surrey604 – so stay tuned.

In October, the BBC will fly Garth to France to film him playing on the same battlefields his grandfather served on 100 years ago! I’m still trying to hitch a ride for that one. 😉


Daman Beatty
The creator of, Daman Beatty (AKA 'Beatler') is originally from Sackville, New Brunswick. A longtime media producer, visual designer, marketing and communications specialist, Daman loves travel, technology and being a Daddy.