Thomas Bidgood (October 7, 1858–March 1, 1925) was an English conductor, composer, and arranger. Bidgood was born on October 7, 1858, in Woolwich, Kent. His father was William John Bidgood, a master plumber, and his mother was Jane Bidgood, née Williams. His early musical training included learning the violin at the London Academy of Music, taught by Signor Erba, and singing in the church choir. As a boy, he attended concerts given by the band of the Royal Artillery, as a result of which he studied various wind instruments. He played the althorn and E♭ bass in the band of the 9th Kent Artillery Volunteers.
While studying at the London Conservatory of Music, Bidgood won several awards for his achievements. After graduation, he worked as an orchestral conductor, teacher and composer. While working at the Beckton Gas Works he became bandmaster of the Beckton Band of the Gas, Light and Coke Company. Later he founded various theatre orchestras in addition to conducting his own professional orchestra and wind band. As a composer he wrote entertainment music, waltzes, dances and marches. He was the father of bandleader Harry Bidgood. Sons of the Brave, his most famous march, written in 1898, was very popular during the Boer Wars and later used in the film A Canterbury Tale (1944).
Sons of the Brave established Bidgood as a popular composer of military music by its ready acceptance by the public and military alike. Although other marches followed, including Knight Errant (1901); The Lads in Navy Blue, Merry Soldiers, and Silent Heroes (1909); The British Legion and A Call to Arms (1912); My Old Kentucky Home and On to Victory (1917) and Vimy Ridge (1921) to name a few, Bidgood’s compositions were not restricted to military marches. During his highly productive life he composed a wide range of compositions, including dances and orchestral works such as the intermezzo Honoraria and A Motor Ride.
Despite this large body of musical compositions, Bidgood remains best known for his march Sons of the Brave. Given the fame of this stirring melody as well as the close association of the term ‘Sons of the Brave’ with the Duke of York’s Royal Military School, it is not surprising that Bidgood’s name should become strongly linked to the School. Over the years writers of anthologies have mistakenly assumed that Thomas Bidgood was a student or pupil of the Royal Military Asylum, Chelsea. However, there is no direct evidence to connect Thomas Bidgood directly to the RMA or the Duke of York’s School.
There is, however, compelling indirect evidence of a connection. That is, his naming his first march Sons of the Brave is clear evidence that Bidgood knew of the School, probably through the many Dukies who satisfied the London market for accomplished musicians. He must obviously have known of or even seen Phil Morris’s evocative painting of the same name, the Sons of the Brave painting in possession of the School. It is reasonable to suppose that the Morris painting inspired Bidgood to compose the march in the first place. Alternatively, he may first have written the march and then found a suitable title for it in Morris’s magnificent painting. Bidgood died by gas poisoning in London, England, on March 1, 1925.
The following work by Thomas Bidgood is contained in my collection: