Army gun salutes honouring Her Majesty The Queen rang out across the United Kingdom today and at saluting stations at home and abroad as the world watched on and mourned her loss.
In London, the Death Gun Salute was fired at 1pm with salutes taking place at Hyde Park, the Tower of London and stations including Belfast, Cardiff, York, Colchester, Edinburgh, Gibraltar and Larkhill (Stonehenge).
At each, one round was fired every ten seconds, with 96 rounds representing one round for every year of The Queen’s life.
The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery fired the Death Gun Salute in Hyde Park and at the same time, it was also fired at the Tower of London by the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC).
The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery in ceremonial dress, rode out from their forward mounting base in Wellington Barracks and made their way up Birdcage Walk, past the Queen Victoria Memorial, up Constitution Hill and into Hyde Park.
71 horses rode out, of which 36 pulled six First World War-era 13-pounder Field Guns.
The six guns, positioned 10m apart, were parallel to the tree line and faced toward Buckingham Palace as the order of fire was given by Major Francesca Sykes, Commanding Officer of The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, riding Charger Sir Yawnberry Dawdle.
The King’s Troop received its title in 1947 when King George VI decided that, following the mechanisation of the last batteries of horse-drawn artillery, a troop of horse artillery should be kept to take part in the great ceremonies of state.
He declared that the Riding Troop of the Royal Horse Artillery would be known as 'The King's Troop' and enacted this by striking out the word ‘Riding’ in their Visitors’ Book and inserting ‘King’s’.
On her accession, Queen Elizabeth II declared that the name 'The King's Troop' would remain in his honour.
At the Tower of London, the salutes took place beside the River Thames and were carried out by The Honourable Artillery Company (HAC), the City of London’s Reserve Army Regiment.
In ceremonial attire, they left their barracks at Armoury House and drove through the city in their liveried Pinzgauer vehicles with police escort to the Tower of London.
As the Guns arrived at the Tower, they were placed into position on the riverbank, facing towards HMS Belfast, as the order of fire was given by A Battery HAC Officer Commanding, Major Matt Aldridge.
"It’s was a great honour and privilege to represent 105 Regiment and the Army and Scotland at this sad time. All serving members and veterans of Her Majesty’s forces I am sure are deeply saddened by this great loss." MAJOR BRIAN ROBSON, 105 REGIMENT ROYAL ARTILLERY
The HAC dates its origins to 1537, making it the oldest Regiment in the British Army. It took over the role of firing Gun Salutes from the Tower of London in 1924.
Meanwhile in Scotland 96 rounds also rang out from the battlements of Edinburgh Castle as 105 Regiment Royal Artillery, an Army Reserve regiment which recruits across Scotland and in Northern Ireland, fired the salute with Major Brian Robson Royal Artillery (RA) in charge.
Major Brian Robson said: "It was a great honour and privilege to represent 105 Regiment and the Army and Scotland at this sad time. All serving members and veterans of Her Majesty’s forces I am sure are deeply saddened by this great loss."
Major Lee Patchell Second in Command of 105 Regiment RA - today Acting Commanding Officer said: "For all of us it is an incredibly sad occasion that we train and prepare for but hope never to have to conduct. It’s a final duty for HM The Queen that we don’t look forward to personally but are trained and ready to perform our duties professionally as a final act of service to HRH Queen Elizabeth II"
“I’ve covered more than 100 Royal gun salutes in the last 12 years, but obviously no gun salute that I have covered can match what we’ve done today.” CAPTAIN HELEN JASPER, 104 REGIMENT ROYAL ARTILLERY
In Wales, salutes rang out as 104 Regiment Royal Artillery, the only Army Reserve Artillery regiment in Wales, fired their salutes amid the sunshine and showers at Cardiff Castle.
Captain Helen Jasper, Officer Commanding the gun troop, said: “This is a unique occasion for all Reservists on parade, and is a historic event they will never forget."
“I’ve covered more than 100 Royal gun salutes in the last 12 years, but obviously no gun salute that I have covered can match what we’ve done today.”
“Even though we prepare to deliver Royal gun salutes in Wales, an event like this will always be emotional and seeing the huge crowd, which is the largest I’ve ever witnessed at Cardiff Castle, really brings home just how extraordinary an occasion this is.”
104 Regiment recruits from across Wales and the Border counties.
“It is a solemn responsibility for F (Sphinx) Parachute Battery RHA to fire a death gun salute and mark the passing of Her Majesty The Queen in a way that only artillery can." MAJOR DOUG COLLETT, 7TH PARACHUTE REGIMENT ROYAL HORSE ARTILLERY
In Colchester and East Essex Cricket Club, the salutes were fired by members of 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery from Colchester Garrison.
Colchester was given the honour of being a Royal Saluting Station by Her Majesty The Queen in 2006.
Major Doug Collett, battery commander of F (Sphinx) Parachute Battery RHA, said: “It is a solemn responsibility for F (Sphinx) Parachute Battery RHA to fire a death gun salute and mark the passing of Her Majesty The Queen in a way that only artillery can."
“As airborne gunners, we take great pride in our ceremonial role and work hard to ensure it is performed to the same high standard as our operational gunnery.”
And at the prehistoric site at Stonehenge, Larkhill, where the salutes were fired, Major Glyn Forster-Haig, battery commander of 34 (Seringapatam) Battery 14th Regiment Royal Artillery, said: “It’s a momentous occasion. I’ve been in the Army now for 16 years, and the Queen is part of the fabric of the institution that we have."
“It’s a momentous occasion. I’ve been in the Army now for 16 years, and the Queen is part of the fabric of the institution that we have." MAJOR GLYN FORSTER-HAIG, 14TH REGIMENT ROYAL ARTILLERY
“I think today is the very least that we could do for her and I think it’s such an important event, certainly from seeing my younger soldiers and engaging with them, explaining to them that this is a woman who has sat with 15 prime ministers."
“Who has seen numerous wars and conflicts from WW2 to the Falklands, and has spoken to prime ministers and advised them.
“That loss, it’s impossible for there not to be a gap, both in the country and certainly within the identity of the military.
“As the firing officer today, I am humbled, nervous and understandably wanting to do the very best that I can for the day.
“I think ultimately it’s the knowledge that you can in some way represent the country’s feelings for Her Majesty.
“Yes, it’s the guns, yes it’s a few loud bangs, but it’s symbolising I think the fact that we are firing one for every year of her life, demonstrating just how great her reign was, and allowing everybody who is here witnessing it, that moment of reflection.
“Not a quiet moment reflection, it’s loud, it’s noisy, it’s hot, there’s fire, and that’s just as important I think, that period of firing”.
"We have a duty to do what we have done today and we take great pride in what we do." LT COL MATT BROCKLEBY, 4TH REGIMENT ROYAL ARTILLERY
In York, where the salutes took place at the York Museum Gardens, Lt Col Matt Brockleby, Commanding Officer, 4th Regiment Royal Artillery, said: “This is an honour for the Regiment."
“We have a duty to do what we have done today and we take great pride in what we do."
“The team rehearse this regularly, we fire several salutes every year, and we got on with our job as professionals. The fact that the people of York turned up in their crowds today shows the regard in which the Queen and the Army are held here.”
And over in Northern Ireland, Captain Joshua McKee, of 206 Battery 105 Regiment Royal Artillery, gave the order to fire the salutes as people laid flowers outside the walls of Hillsborough Castle.
The event was also attended by The Lord Caine, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office and Steve Baker MP, Minister of State for Northern Ireland.