News story

Armed Forces mark Her Majesty's birthday

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

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.

Crowds of well-wishers gathered in front of Buckingham Palace
Crowds of well-wishers gathered in front of Buckingham Palace [Picture: Petty Officer (Photographer) Derek Wade, Crown copyright]

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.

Her Majesty The Queen smiles as she steps from her carriage
Her Majesty The Queen smiles as she steps from her carriage [Picture: Corporal Andy Reddy, Crown copyright]

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.

RAF flypast

The Red Arrows fly over Buckingham Palace and over the Royal Standard
The Red Arrows fly over Buckingham Palace and over the Royal Standard [Picture: Sergeant Jez Doak RAF, Crown copyright]

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.

Her Majesty and members of the Royal Family
Her Majesty and members of the Royal Family watch the flypast from the balcony of Buckingham Palace [Picture: Petty Officer (Photographer) Derek Wade, Crown copyright]

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.

More of Saturday’s highlights in pictures

Troops and horses of the Household Division on The Mall
Troops and horses of the Household Division on The Mall [Picture: Petty Officer (Photographer) Derek Wade, Crown copyright]
Her Majesty The Queen and the Duke of Kent are greeted by a mounted officer of the Household Cavalry
Her Majesty The Queen and the Duke of Kent are greeted by a mounted officer of the Household Cavalry [Picture: Petty Officer (Photographer) Derek Wade, Crown copyright]
Lancaster bomber in the skies above Buckingham Palace
The RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's Lancaster bomber in the skies above Buckingham Palace [Picture: Petty Officer (Photographer) Derek Wade, Crown copyright]
Lancaster bomber PA474 (Thumper MkIII)
The RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's Lancaster bomber takes part in the Queen's birthday celebration flypast over London [Picture: Sergeant Pete Mobbs RAF, Crown copyright]
The colour of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards is trooped
The colour of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards is trooped in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen [Picture: Corporal Andy Reddy, Crown copyright]
Soldiers of the Household Division form up
Soldiers of the Household Division form up in front of Her Majesty The Queen and the Duke of Kent [Picture: Petty Officer (Photographer) Derek Wade, Crown copyright]
Members of the Foot Guards Trooping the Colour
Members of the Foot Guards Trooping the Colour on Horse Guards Parade [Picture: Sergeant Adrian Harlen, Crown copyright]
Soldiers of the Household Division parade along The Mall
Soldiers of the Household Division parade along The Mall, with Buckingham Palace seen behind them [Picture: Sergeant Adrian Harlen, Crown copyright]
The Royal Colonels
The Royal Colonels - Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and The Princess Royal - on parade [Picture: Corporal Andy Reddy, Crown copyright]
The Duchess of Cambridge
The Duchess of Cambridge, just weeks from her baby's due date, rides with the Duchess of Cornwall [Picture: Corporal Andy Reddy, Crown copyright]
Her Majesty's coach is drawn from Horse Guards Parade
Her Majesty's coach is drawn from Horse Guards Parade [Picture: Corporal Paul Shaw, Crown copyright]
RAF Voyager escorted by Typhoon and Tornado fighter jets
The RAF's latest and largest transport aircraft, Voyager, is escorted by Typhoon and Tornado fighter jets [Picture: Petty Officer (Photographer) Derek Wade, Crown copyright]
Musicians from the Household Division Bands and Corps of Drums
Musicians from the Household Division Bands and Corps of Drums march and play on Horse Guards Parade [Picture: Corporal Paul Shaw, Crown copyright]
Foot Guards in formation during Trooping the Colour
Foot Guards in formation during Trooping the Colour on Horse Guards Parade [Picture: Corporal Paul Shaw, Crown copyright]
RAF TriStar and VC10 aircraft
RAF TriStar and VC10 aircraft take part in the Queen's birthday celebration flypast [Picture: Sergeant Ralph Merry RAF, Crown copyright]
C-17 Globemaster flanked by BAe HS125 aircraft
RAF C-17 Globemaster flanked by BAe HS125 aircraft [Picture: Sergeant Ralph Merry RAF, Crown copyright]