Military gun salutes sounded across the UK today (14 November) to mark His Majesty King Charles III’s 74th birthday.
In London, the celebrations began at 11 am, when The Band of the Household Cavalry performed a special rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ on the Buckingham Palace forecourt.
The palace is where Charles was born in 1948, when his grandfather, King George VI, was still on the throne. Charles was three when his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, acceded the throne in 1952.
At midday, a 41-gun royal salute from the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery was sounded in nearby Green Park.
Shortly before midday, riding at speed from the Hyde Park Corner end of Green Park, 71 horses pulling six First World War era 13-pounder Field Guns placed the Guns into position for the Royal Salute beside six ammunition boxes.
The guns were quickly detached, the horses escorted to a safe area and, on the word of command, each of the guns fired blank artillery rounds at ten-second intervals until 41 shots had been fired. As soon as the Salute was completed, the Band of the Scots Guards performed ‘Happy Birthday'.
It was a double celebration for The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, having been formed and named by The King’s Grandfather, King George VI in 1947.
On the other side of London, four 25-pounder Artillery Guns were drawn through the streets by the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) Regiment to The Tower of London. The Guns were placed into position on Tower Wharf, facing the River Thames, by Army Reserve soldiers from the HAC.
At precisely 1 pm, on the word of command, a 62 Gun Royal Salute was fired, each round firing from one of the four guns in turn, filling the wharf with white smoke at ten-second intervals. The sound reverberated from the Tower battlements until all rounds had been fired.
In the north of England, the Thirsk-based 4th Regiment Royal Artillery fired their salute at York’s Museum Gardens in front of a crowd of excited onlookers. The firing party was backed by the British Army Band Catterick who performed for the crowd.
A secondary saluting station, the city of York was granted the honour in 1971 to mark 2,000 years of existence and most recently saw the L118 Light Guns used for the proclamation salute for HM The King in September this year.
York remains the most northerly saluting station in England and HM King Charles III is no stranger to the ancient city, having visited to unveil a statue of his dearly missed mother on 9 November in the grounds of the Minster.
In Cardiff, reservists from 104 Regiment Royal Artillery, based at Raglan Barracks in Newport, fired the Royal Gun Salute in front of the Norman Keep inside the grounds of Cardiff Castle.
Brigadier Andrew Dawes CBE, the head of the Army in Wales, accompanied the Lord Lieutenant of South Glamorgan and the Lord Mayor of Cardiff.
Two Armed Forces Covenant signings took place during the celebrations. Cardiff Council and the Vale of Glamorgan Council pledged their commitment to ensuring those serving, or who have served in the Armed Forces, and their families, are treated with fairness and respect in the communities they live and serve in.
In Scotland, two gun salutes marked The King’s birthday. Both salutes were carried out by 105 Regiment Royal Artillery which has squadrons across Scotland and Northern Ireland. In Edinburgh guests led by Lord Provost Councillor Robert Aldridge were on the battlements for the tribute. Reservists from 105 Regiment Royal Artillery carried out the salute with a battery of close support light field guns.
In Northern Ireland, troops from 206 (Ulster) Battery 105 Regiment Royal Artillery fired a gun salute at Hillsborough Castle.
Gun salutes have existed for centuries with the firing of guns or firearms seen as a mark of respect on special occasions or as a military honour.
The number of rounds fired depends on the place and occasion. The standard royal salute is the traditional 21 rounds. But when the salute is given from a Royal Park an extra 20 guns are added, becoming a 41-gun salute.
However, this becomes a 62-gun salute when discharged from a Royal Fortress, like the Tower of London, where the 21 guns fired have 20 volleys added because the site is a Royal Palace and Fortress then another 21 to show loyalty from the City of London, which has its own jurisdiction, separate from the rest of London.