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TECHNOLOGY

Military bugle goes electronic

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British buglers play the Last Post at the British war memorial in Iraq in this November 2003 file photo.

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- The Last Post, one of the most traditional military sounds, is going high-tech with a press-of-the-button electronic version of the bugle to play the stirring ceremonial call.

Britain's Ministry of Defence has introduced the battery-operated bugle to replace the traditional military instrument, the UK's Press Association reported.

A digital instrument plays pre-recorded tunes which sound the same as if they were being performed live, and a "player" player puffs out his cheeks and mimes just as if a traditional instrument was being played, PA said.

The automated bugle was first introduced in America two years ago to play at funeral ceremonies after the U.S. Defense Department admitted it did not have enough musicians to play at the funerals of all the WWII veterans entitled to a military send off.

But the British Ministry of Defence denies it is short of buglers, saying the new device, which looks just like the traditional version of the small brass horn but performs at the touch of a button, will be used when human buglers are unavailable.

The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, based at the Tower of London, was the first to buy the £300 ($500) electronic bugle, PA said.

"It would not be used in mainstream circumstances like a proper military parade or a royal event. It will only be used for smaller events such as funerals," a Ministry of Defence spokesman said.

However under the latest round of defense cuts, the Army is set to lose eight percent of its 1,000 musicians.

Just 10 years ago the Royal Fusiliers had two full bands. Now there are just two bands for the entire Queen's Division, which includes the fusiliers as well as two other regiments.

The decision to introduce the press-and-play bugle has provoked outrage among British war veterans.

Bruce Simpson, chairman of the Western Front Association said: "The whole concept of it is misplaced. It is yet another part of our history being re-assigned.

"Military music is a heritage and tradition which we should never lose. I find this unbelievable. The problem I have with it is that it is the start of a downward slope. We will end up marching to a CD player."

The traditional bugle has been used to rally troops since the mid 18th century.

It was first used as a means of communication by the Hanoverian Light infantry which adopted the German flugelhorn.

The English light infantry followed suit but called the instrument the "bugle".

The first official list of bugle calls was published in 1798 and many of the most familiar ones, such as Reveille and the Last Post, have stayed virtually the same ever since.

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