To mark the historic occasion of the 70th anniversary of Her Majesty The Queen’s accession to the throne, Regular and Reserve soldiers have been taking part in Royal gun salutes around the UK.
Princess Elizabeth became Queen on 6 February 1952 on the day her father, King George VI, died. Although Princess Elizabeth was away in Kenya at the time, tradition dictated that the new monarch acceded to the throne instantly. As of 6 February 2022, Her Majesty will have reigned as The Queen for 70 years, and the date marks the official start of a year of celebrations for the Platinum Jubilee.
On special days such as anniversaries and birthdays, Royal salutes are fired by military personnel from various locations across the UK and abroad. However, when a special day falls on a Sunday, the Royal salute is not fired until the following day, hence the Accession Day salutes being carried out on 7 February.
In London, Her Majesty’s Mounted Ceremonial Battery, The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery paraded their 71 horses and six First World War-era gun carriages past Buckingham Palace and up Constitution Hill to Green Park to stage the midday 41-gun salute. The Troop is commanded by Major Fran Sykes and from the top down is one of the most diverse units in the Army with half of the Gunners being female. They were met by the Band of the Grenadier Guards who performed celebratory music near the firing position in Green Park on their arrival.
In Wales, a ceremony took place inside the grounds of Cardiff Castle, organised by 160th (Welsh) Brigade. Reservists from C Troop 211 Battery, part of 104 Regiment Royal Artillery, fired a 21-gun salute from three 105mm light guns. Music was provided by The Regimental Band and Corps of Drums of The Royal Welsh and The Lord Lieutenant of South Glamorgan, took the salute, accompanied by the Lord Mayor of Cardiff and the head of the Army in Wales, Brigadier Andrew Dawes CBE.
In Northern Ireland, the Reservists of 206 Ulster Battery Royal Artillery (RA) based in Newtownards and Coleraine fired a 21-gun salute at Hillsborough Castle. The village of Hillsborough recently officially changed its name to Royal Hillsborough due to its association with Her Majesty.
Scotland’s Edinburgh Castle was the location for 105 Regiment Royal Artillery’s 21-gun salute in the presence of the Governor of Edinburgh Castle, Major General Alastair Bruce of Crionaich OBE and the Secretary of State for Scotland, The Rt Hon Alister Jack MP. 105 Regiment RA, known as the Scottish & Ulster Gunners, is a Close Support Artillery Regiment based at various locations across Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Back in London, at 1 pm the Tower of London’s equally impressive L118 Ceremonial Light Guns, similar to those that were used operationally in Afghanistan, fired a 62-gun salute from Tower Wharf overlooking HMS Belfast across the Thames by the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC). The HAC dates back to the reign of King Henry VIII but is now at the forefront of delivering the Army’s Future Soldier intelligence capability and is a vital part of the Army Reserve.
Gun salutes are always a spectacular sight. On the word of command, each gun will fire blank artillery rounds at ten-second intervals until all of the assigned shots have been fired. Whilst a royal salute normally comprises 21 rounds, this is increased to 41 rounds if fired from a royal park such as Green Park or a royal residence. Uniquely, at The Tower of London, a grand total of 62 rounds are fired on royal anniversaries as this also includes an additional 21 guns for the citizens of the City of London to show their loyalty and respect to the Monarch.