Each year the queen’s Official Birthday is celebrated with a stunning parade, in which one particular battalion is chosen for the honour of presenting its colours to Her Majesty. This year it’s the turn of 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards. The tradition is that, before and after a battle, armies used to fall in by companies, and their colour party would ‘troop’ the colours past them. This served a dual purpose of ensuring soldiers would be able to recognise his own unit in battle, and proving that the unit was still in the fight. If the unit was defeated, the conquering side would capture or even destroy the colours.
Queen Elizabeth II has only missed one of these events during the whole of her reign, and then only because it was cancelled due to strike action. All the key members of the Royal Family will also be present – including the Duchess of Cambridge, for whom this will be her first royal engagement since the birth of Princess Charlotte – and will line up on the balcony of Buckingham Palace for the finale.
First the queen will emerge from the palace and proceed down The Mall, escorted by the Household Cavalry. Next, she will inspect the troops of the Household Division and the King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery. At this point 1st Battalion Welsh Guards will parade their colours through the ranks of guards, then all units will march past her, to the music of their various bands. Finally Her Majesty will return to the palace, pause to watch a final march-past and await a 41-gun-salute by the King’s Troop, then retreat inside, before emerging onto the famous balcony to watch the flypast with her family.
An impressive 31 aircraft are set to participate in that flypast, including a Sea King, 2 Chinooks, a Puma, a Dakota, 2 each of Spitfires, Hurricanes and Typhoons, a Hercules accompanied by a pair of King Airs, a C-17 and a Bae147, 2 Tornado GR4s, an E-3D, a Voyager escorted by a second pair of Typhoons, then finally the 9 Red Arrows bringing up the rear. It should be quite a show!
Tickets for the event at Horse Guards Parade have all been allocated already, but fear not. You can watch for free from The Mall or the edge of St James’s Park, or even catch it on the telly from 10.30am-1.05pm on BBC One.