I really do love living in London…I never tire of it, and this weekend was quite a big one in London, for monarch and aircraft spotting.
June 14th 2014 was the date of the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony which is held each year on Horse Guards Parade ground in London. For those not in the know, this is (to quote from Wikipedia):
“a tradition of British infantry regiments since the 17th century, although the roots go back much earlier. On battlefields, a regiment’s colour’s, or flags, were used as rallying points. Consequently, regiments would have their ensigns slowly march with their colours between the soldiers’ ranks to enable soldiers to recognise their regiments’ colours.“
The ceremony is held to mark Her Majesty the Queen’s Official Birthday, and a great deal of pomp is involved. The British military, apart from being a very efficient fighting force, also know how to put on a show!
It’s a terrific day for tourists and locals alike to be in London, as the opportunity for seeing the Royal Family in the flesh is more or less guaranteed. Debs and I went into London on Wednesday evening to see a jazz gig, and grabbed a bite beforehand. We ended up chatting to a newly arrived American family from Arizona, on their first trip to Europe. They had their 4 days in the UK planned out, but by the time we finished talking to them, I think Stonehenge was shelved in favour of the ‘Trooping’ (you can imagine the reactions of 2 teenage American girls at the prospect of seeing the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge -William and Kate in real life, not to mention Prince Harry. Stonehenge didn’t stand a chance! I think the London Eye might also have been added to their itinerary!).
Unless you have tickets, access to the actual ceremony in the parade ground is not possible (although it is shown on television), but you can get a great view of the participants from anywhere along The Mall. If you get there by about 9.00am, you can pick a great spot and guarantee a great view. Which is what we did.
From about 10.20 the bands of Her Majesty’s Household Division, comprised of the Foot Guards (Grenadier Guards, the Coldstream Guards, the Scots Guards, the Irish Guards, and the Welsh Guards) and the cavalry (Life Guards and the Blues and Royals) set off from the Buckingham Palace end of The Mall and march towards Admiralty Arch, playing marches as they go. First off are the foot guards bands! What a sound! As a trombone player I am always thrilled to hear the trombones at the front of each band, ably accompanied by the rest of the band. (I know a few of the players, and it’s usually quite a challenge to spot them under their bearskin hats!)
A little behind them comes the Household Cavalry and the mounted band. As trombone player (I know I just used that line) I am always enormously impressed with how the trombones, or indeed any of the mounted musicians, manage to ride a horse and play an instrument simultaneously! I struggle with just the trombone to be honest, forget about the horse!
It’s a fantastic way to spend a Saturday morning, as we did with friends, two of whom are Canadian, so we had the fun of explaining it all to them too! Once the procession has passed, if you wait around for an hour or so, you can see the Royal Household return to Buckingham Palace along The Mall, and this time, when the bands come back, they are formed up as a massed band, which is a sight to see!
Once everyone is back in the palace and the bands have returned to Wellington Barracks, the crowds are then allowed to move onto the The Mall itself, and everyone moves down towards the palace to see the Royal Family appear on the balcony of the palace. We didn’t see this as we were enjoying coffee and cake in Cafe in the Crypt!
I love all things aviation – more of which in some future blog! I’m not quite a full on geek (although my family may disagree), but I love to watch aircraft, so I wasn’t about to miss out on the fly past that completes the Trooping celebrations, which we watched from Trafalgar Square. With 28 RAF aircraft taking part, it makes for an impressive site, but all over so quickly!
If you find yourself in London around this time of the year, make a point of including Trooping The Colour in your plans! Its a great event, and FREE!!
© Richard Debonnaire