Blue skies and sunshine to greet the Queen’s Birthday.
Today is Trooping the Colour in Horse Guards Parade in London, our most
Extract from the BBC:
The custom of Trooping the Colour dates back to the time of Charles II in the 17th. Century when the Colours of a regiment were used as a rallying point in battle and were therefore trooped in front of the soldiers every day to make sure that every man could recognise those of his own regiment. In London, the Foot Guards used to do this as part of their daily Guard Mounting on Horse Guards and the ceremonial of the modern Trooping the Colour parade is along similar lines. The first traceable mention of The Sovereign’s Birthday being ‘kept’ by the Grenadier Guards is in 1748 and again, after George III became King in 1760, it was ordered that parades should mark the King’s Birthday. From the accesssion of George IV they became, with a few exceptions and notably the two World Wars, an annual event.
This impressive display of pageantry is now held on the occasion of the Queen’s Official Birthday. It takes place in June each year to celebrate the official Birthday of the Sovereign and is carried out by her personal troops, the Household Division, on Horse Guards Parade, with the Queen herself attending and taking the salute.
Since 1987, The Queen has attended in a carriage rather than riding, which she did before that on 36 occasions, riding side-saddle and wearing the uniform of the regiment whose Colour was being trooped. The regiments take their turn for this honour in rotation as operational commitments permit.
Over 1400 officers and men are on parade, together with two hundred horses; over four hundred musicians from ten bands and corps of drums march and play as one. Some 113 words of command are given by the Officer in Command of the Parade. The parade route extends from Buckingham Palace along The Mall to Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall and back again.
Precisely as the clock on the Horse Guards Building strikes eleven, the Royal Procession arrives and The Queen takes the Royal Salute. The parade begins with the Inspection, The Queen driving slowly down the ranks of all eight Guards and then past the Household Cavalry. After the event, the Royal Family gathers on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to watch an RAF flypast.
It turned out to be a lovely day with a pleasant breeze to make things bearable for the Guards in those heavy uniforms. The Plane trees were out in full leaf along the Mall and flags hung from every lampost as the Queen went back down the Mall to Buckingham Palace( picture from Telegraph newspaper) to watch a 30 aircraft strong RAF flypast including thirteen different types of aircraft: World War II Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster, modern Typhoon fighters and the Red Arrows aerobatic display team, followed by a 41 Gun Royal Salute in Green Park and a 62 Gun Salute at Gun Wharf at the Tower of London.
It was spectacular: the horses looked wonderful, especially the Drumhorses Achilles and Saracen.
She smiled visibly when old favourite Vagabond – an institution among the mounts of the Household Cavalry – passed by. Notorious for teaching new troopers a lesson or two about horse management, usually with his teeth or feet, the 12-year-old is one of many horses in the Regiment to have a dedicated Facebook page. The Queen looked pretty and happy and as always, so interested in the welfare of ‘her’ troops and the horses.
The soldiers look handsome in their pageantry but thinking of them recently in Afghanistan under very different circumstances made the sight very poignant. There were several in full uniform, but minus legs sitting in wheelchairs, yet looking so proud.
The Royal Horse Artillery paraded their guns in three sections. Each gun and limber weigh 3.5 tons and each gun saw action in the Great War. For the artillery regiments the guns are their Colour and are granted the same respect as the embroidered Colours of other regiments. Apparently one third of these soldiers are now women.
Their horses are graded by colour so that on the battlefield you could tell which company was which by the colour of their horses.
I find spectacles like this difficult: I love history and feel this as part of my heritage. I love the composers whose music is played and the folk tunes going back hundreds of years. I think of the literature I have read in which these soldiers and the same music figure so strongly. The jobs which we never think of such as the saddlers, the tanners, the metal workers, the hatters, the tailors, the farriers, the livery men and women, whose professions are kept alive and up to standard by pageantry like this.
Our local Farrier was a member of the Guards and learned his profession serving with them, largely in Germany. When not on active service he travelled the world, including the US, with his troupe, giving demonstrations in full uniform!
I so admire the good qualities displayed, bravery, comradeship, loyalty, respect, love of their horses, etc. but when you see the disabled soldiers and the Farriers riding with their silver axes (for putting wounded horses out of their misery) you cannot but be reminded of the dreadful side of it all, both past and present. And the money spent on campaigns overseas when things are so desperate in the UK.
When you look at the prosperity of Germany, which for so long was forbidden to use Military in any capacity, compared with our country which has struggled with standards of living so much lower for most of the last Century, it does make you count the financial cost. Yet, not everything can be measured in fiscal terms and I sit on the fence, seeing great good and great bad all around.
In my village as a youngster we always had the odd thug or hooligan, who could not fit in and was a general pain to everyone. At the time we had conscription in the UK and the elders in the village always said that as soon as these lads left for their compulsory military service they would be transformed. And they were. Each time they returned to the village as upright citizens, fit, strong, motivated and happy in themselves: they had had fun, good food, fitness training, adventures, discipline, overcome challenges and found themselves in the process.
I have no great thoughts to dispense today: but seeing the pride this morning, the love, the purpose, I so wish it could be bottled and used in some other manner than for military ends.