Friday, July 31, 2009

Hussars on parade

Just before noon today, the 1st Queen's Dragoon Guards exercised their freedom of the city and marched out of the Castle, down Westgate Street and back up St Mary Street, headed up by the Guards band and preceded by a police motorbike and two police horses. Following the officers and men, were several armoured vehicles including a tank on its transporter. Prince Charles took the salute. The occasion was the 50th anniversary of the regiment's foundation, plus celebration of their return from Afghanistan. The streets were thinly lined, with a mixture of family and friends plus Friday shoppers. News of the occasion had been published in advance but the timing was imprecise - this presumably was an anti-terrorist precaution, given where the regiment had just come from, and the presence of Prince Charles.

I knew a couple of days in advance because our bell ringers had been prompted by one of their associates to turn out and ring to mark the occasion. By asking around beforehand, I established that the march began just before midday. I left a note on the chancel screen door to apologise for a late start on this occasion, and went out on the streets with my camera. The march started at ten to twelve, and I was back at the altar by ten past. The pictures are here.

The reception for the troops was warmly enthusiastic. If the time had been publicised, roads into town would have been gridlocked with spectators travelling in while soldiers and their machinery were themselves assembling. Thanks to the publicity Britain's military activities have received in recent years, there's much sympathy
regardless of political opinions, for the young men who enlist in the service of their country.

The parade was different from usual, as the saluting base couldn't be in its normal place in front of City Hall. The entire civic centre being given over to the stage and funfair for the 'Big Weekend'. Thus the focal point for the parade was switched to the Castle. Grand marquees were erected in the grounds for lunch. Our bell ringers started their festive offering at one, just as the assembly would be sitting down to lunch. I hope this was noticed by the troops, and was understood to be in their honour.

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