Book Review – In the Firing Line


A new biography of Colonel Bramwell Coles is now available.

Eighty years after its publication as a march in 1926, In the Firing Line is receiving renewed attention, this time as the title of Colonel Bramwell Coles’ biography.

The newly released biography, by Wally Court, firmly establishes Coles in the pantheon of Salvation Army composers.

The book was recently launched at a concert by the Etobicoke (Toronto) Temple Band and Songster Brigade. In the audience were 56 descendents of Coles and his wife, Agnes, including two great-grandchildren.
“In the Firing Line fills a significant gap in the history of Salvation Army music-making,” said Court. “Bramwell Coles was basically self-taught and his life bridged the period between pioneering Salvationist musicians and the emergence of degreed music professionals. His contribution was monumental. An officer, composer, arranger, instrumentalist, bandmaster, songster leader, journalist, editor, critic, educator and head of the Army’s musical editorial department for 16 years; he was the consummate Salvationist musician.”
General John Larsson (Ret.) commented, “Bramwell Coles was one of my musical heroes as I began in my youth to explore the world of Salvation Army music. He deserves to be honored and I am delighted that [his life] is going to be honored in this way.”

While he was popularly known as the Salvation Army’s Sousa for his spirited marches, Coles’ selections were intimate musical portraits of Christ and the cross. “No Salvationist composer could so movingly portray the Calvary theme. Here he was at his best,” eulogized his friend Commissioner Archie Wiggins.

Court presented books to five of the seven siblings whose safe return after serving in World War II was the inspiration for Coles’ march, “Victors Acclaimed,” which was played by the Etobicoke band.

Unable to be present, Commissioner Alan Coles wrote from England, “I am amazed at the extent of biographical detail. It is a true portrait of my father and catches the essence of his life and nature. It aims higher than history and speaks to the heart.’”

In dedicating the book and CD to the glory of God, Raymond Coles said, “Music has both a ‘then’ and a ‘now,’ and in our spiritual lives we can be open to the potential of each moment. This ‘then’ book has many ‘now’ moments that are rich sources of blessing today.”

The book comes with a foreword by Lt. Colonel Ray Steadman Allen, O.F., and endorsements by Dr. Ronald Holz, Music Department, Asbury College, Wilmore Kentucky, and Major Len Ballantine, Music and Gospel Arts Department, Canada and Bermuda Territory.

The biography ships to US addresses for $32. Contact the author: W. L. (Wally) Court, 1 Ashmill Court, Etobicoke, ON M9A 4T7, Canada. Or email:

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