The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery (RHA) rode through St John's Wood yesterday, Monday 6 February 2012, as they left their barracks for the last time prior to their move today to their new home in Woolwich.
Two-and-a-half-thousand schoolchildren lined a route decorated with bunting and flags to sing a selection of songs from the First World War and were joined by 400 veterans and thousands of residents and shopkeepers keen to pay their respects to a much loved military unit which has been their neighbour for more than 60 years.
The moving spectacle also included a blessing for the horses and soldiers by the vicar of St John’s Wood, the Reverend Dr Anders Bergquist, and a trumpet fanfare.
The unit has been stationed at St John’s Wood Barracks since its formation by King George VI in 1947 and it was fitting that they closed a significant chapter in their history on the anniversary of their royal creator’s death.
The King’s Troop personnel were up before dawn preparing their 109 horses for the big day, including grooming, trimming of tails, shaving of coats, tacking up, final mucking out, and veterinary inspections, before the unit formally marched out of the barracks for the last time as the flag was finally lowered.
The St John’s Wood community paid their own respects as the horsemen and women and their mounts paraded down the High Street accompanied by the Royal Artillery Band.
The Commanding Officer, Major Mark Edward, made a farewell address as the entire troop assembled in the heart of the community. He said:
It’s very sad to be leaving St John’s Wood. Thank you to everyone for all the support you have given us in our time here and for turning out in such numbers today. We have a huge attachment to this site. But we must move on and we will inherit a fabulous new facility at Woolwich, bespoke to our requirements.
Finally, the King’s Troop trumpeter, Lance Bombardier Dan Richards, played ‘Sunset’ from the top of a house overlooking the High Street before the children’s choirs sang ‘Auld Lang Syne’ as the King’s Troop marched off towards Hyde Park.
On arrival at Hyde Park, 71 horses from the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, pulling six guns, dramatically galloped across the lawns, before getting into position to fire a 41-gun salute at noon to mark the 60th anniversary of the accession of Her Majesty The Queen to the throne and to formally mark the start of her Diamond Jubilee year.
The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery are today moving into a new purpose-built equestrian training facility and accommodation centre in Woolwich Garrison. The new facilities have been delivered by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, working with industry partner Morgan Sindall.
There has been a military presence in St John’s Wood for almost two hundred years; the site having been a military riding school since 1825, and used exclusively by the Royal Horse Artillery since 1880.