Military precision, colour and pageantry marked the Queen's birthday in London, both on the ground and in the skies above.
Trooping the Colour
The centuries-old tradition of Trooping the Colour has been held on Horse Guards Parade to honour the sovereign’s birthday almost annually since 1805 and, on Saturday 15 June, more than 1,000 soldiers and horses from the Household Division paraded in front of their Colonel-in-Chief, Her Majesty The Queen.
Each year the 5 Foot Guards regiments take it in turns to troop their colour in front of the sovereign. Colour is the name given to regimental flags of the British Army, and such flags have been used as rallying points since the ancient kings of Babylon. In the Middle Ages, each lord or baron flew his banner as a sign by which his followers could distinguish him in battle.
Colours were last carried into action by the 58th Foot in South Africa in 1881. Up until that time they participated in all the varying fortunes of their regiment and were often torn by enemy fire, acquiring an almost religious significance. Even today, uncased colours are invariably carried by an officer and accompanied by an armed escort.
This year, the colour being trooped in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen was that of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards. The Welsh Guards have recently returned from operational service in Afghanistan where they were responsible for the Police Mentoring and Advisory Group, assisting the country to achieve self-governance.
There were more than 200 horses, and more than 400 musicians from all the Household Division Bands and Corps of Drums, who marched and played as one.
The famous drum horses of the mounted bands with their immaculately waxed moustaches were also on parade.
The guardsmen on parade on Saturday represented 4 of the 5 regiments of Foot Guards: Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots and Welsh; many of the young soldiers having recently returned from operations in Afghanistan. The Irish Guards were represented only by their band and their regimental adjutant, reflecting the battalion’s current heavy commitment to overseas deployments and training.
Immediately following the parade, the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, with their 6 First World War guns pulled by teams of Irish Draught horses, rode up The Mall to be in position to fire a 41-gun royal salute in Green Park at 12:52pm.
As the Royal Family returned to Buckingham Palace and, in keeping with tradition, made their balcony appearance, the RAF performed a flypast down The Mall featuring 32 aircraft of 13 different types; from the famous Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster aircraft of the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight to modern multi-role Typhoon jets, the Red Arrows Hawk aircraft, and the RAF’s latest and largest transport aircraft, Voyager.
Squadron Leader Simon Oldfield, responsible for planning the flypast, summed up the occasion:
The weeks and months of hard work have paid off. It’s an honour and privilege to play my part amongst the many men and women who have made this flypast possible for Her Majesty The Queen on her birthday. It’s also a wonderful occasion and opportunity for the public to witness the skills and professionalism of RAF personnel who continue to serve on operations around the world.