The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery has been declared “fit to represent the nation” following their annual inspection today in Woolwich by Major General Christopher Ghika, General Officer Commanding The Household Division and chief arbiter of ceremonial excellence in the British Army.
Following the inspection, the horses and riders put on a demonstration of their world-famous Musical Drive for the Major General, accompanied by the Band of the Grenadier Guards who entertained the public that gathered to watch the spectacle.
The Major General’s inspection determines whether The Troop is fit to perform ceremonial and public duties for the next twelve months. The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery are currently rehearsing for an action-packed summer with Royal Gun Salutes, the King’s Birthday Parade (Trooping of the Colour) and the Military Musical Spectacular all in central London.
The Musical Drive will be performed at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in May and Chatham Country Fair in September. The Troop will also mount the King’s Lifeguard in June and July whilst the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment conduct their annual training camp.
Major General Ghika is renowned for his eagle-eye attention to detail; he is an incredibly fair but sharp judge. I am immensely proud of what the Troop have achieved today. Our soldiers have spent months training young horses, teaching new gun team drivers and rehearsing to be able to bring together the Musical Drive MAJOR SYKES, THE KING’S TROOP ROYAL HORSE ARTILLERY
The day began on the parade square at the Georgian fronted Royal Artillery Barracks – the longest parade square in Europe. The Major General rigorously inspected the standard of horses, harness, guns, uniforms, and checked the soldiers’ knowledge of military history and regimental ethos.
The men and women of The Troop have spent several weeks incessantly polishing leather and brass, and behind every gleaming horse coat, perfectly trimmed tail and glinting spur, lie hours of physical effort, dedication and very early mornings.
Then the inspection moved to Woolwich Common where members of the public witnessed a world class display involving 68 magnificently turned–out horses and 59 soldiers performing the Musical Drive.
Providing reassurance that the Troop can safely manoeuvre the guns around the tightest areas, handle any unforeseen events and conduct mounted sword drill to the highest of standards.
The Musical Drive is one of the most impressive displays of horsemanship in the world involving high risk, complex choreographed moves with split-second timing. Teams of six colour matched horses draw each of six field guns and limbers, with the gun detachment riding behind each barrel.
The guns are 13 Pounder Quick Fire Howitzers, all of which saw service in the First World War. Each gun and limber weighs one and a half tonnes, has no brakes, and combined with the team of six horses is approximately 54 feet long.
Several newer members of the team may never have ridden a horse before joining the Troop but by the time of the annual inspection are capable of advanced equitation skills.
The Commanding Officer, The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, Major Frances Sykes said:
“Major General Ghika is renowned for his eagle-eye attention to detail; he is an incredibly fair but sharp judge. I am immensely proud of what the Troop have achieved today. Our soldiers have spent months training young horses, teaching new gun team drivers and rehearsing to be able to bring together the Musical Drive.
"They have also spent weeks preparing the guns and harness to ‘State standard’. As ever, the sense of team spirit, determination and professional pride has been evident to see.”
At the end of the inspection, The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery, having proved their capability, returned to barracks to remove the dust, mud and grass ready for their next duties of the season.
The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery is the Saluting Battery of His Majesty’s Household Troops and is the senior unit of the British Army when on parade with its guns, which are their Colours and treated with extraordinary reverence.
It was formed in 1947 at the express wish of King George VI, to fire Royal Gun Salutes in London on royal anniversaries and to take part in the grand occasions of State (including State Visits, State Opening of Parliament and State Funerals).
The Troop is based in Woolwich, South East London and is comprised of 170 personnel alongside 120 horses.