Colour Parade News
DAY 10 - Update
Well the boots are bulled and the brasses are polished. Collars are starched, and all that remains is the wait for the big parade – on show to The Queen and five thousand members of the audience, with the nation watching live on television.
Personnel lined up on the parade square at Innsworth Station this morning for the final opportunity to iron out any glitches in the parade – although drill is now down to a tee. For once, the sun was shining through the clouds, and hopes are high that the Royal Colours Event might not be a washout after all – although rain drops still feature in the forecast.
The afternoon was set aside to make final uniform adjustments, play a bit of sport or just chill out. Many were planning on an early night ready for the huge day ahead, which will be a once-in-a-lifetime event.
All Eyes to the Skies for The Queen’s Colours
The skies over Fairford were part of history today, as around 90 aircraft flew over in a stunning display celebrating 90 years of the Royal Air Force.
It was the climax of a very special day for the RAF, during which the Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, presented new Queen’s Colours to the RAF in the United Kingdom and the RAF Regiment during a visit to the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire.
The mass flypast, which took more than eight minutes to pass, featured most of the aircraft types currently in service both in the UK and operational theatres abroad, including Chinooks, Nimrod, Hawks and GR4s. It was followed by flying display vignettes depicting aircraft of the The First World War, the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight from the Second World War and multi-role Eurofighter Typhoons of the present day RAF.
The flypast, which was planned over several months of careful preparation, covered a route from Cheltenham to well beyond Swindon – and was a unique experience for those lucky enough to witness it.
Unique Day in RAF History
The Royal Air Force marked its 90th anniversary in style with its biggest ever parade for the presentation of new Queen’s Colours to the RAF in the United Kingdom and the RAF Regiment.
Months of dedicated preparation and weeks of drill for around 800 personnel fell into place for the presentation made by the Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, during a visit to the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire. Rain which had plaqued parade rehearsals for most of the week even stayed away for most of the day – although a quick drenching was unfortunately in store for personnel and spectators during the final five minutes.
61 Squadron Standards were on display on the parade ground and personnel welcomed the Queen in the presence of 5,000 invited guests which included proud families, serving members of the RAF and its various associations and charities.
The event was the largest RAF parade since the Queen conducted a ‘Silver Jubilee’ Review of the RAF at RAF Finningley, Yorkshire in 1977. After the Royal salute four Typhoon aircraft flew past in formation, and the Queen was invited to review the Parade. The Colours were then escorted by the Queen’s Colour Squadron (63 Squadron RAF Regiment), augmented by other Royal Air Force Regiment squadrons and 34 Squadron RAF Regiment. They were supported by two further squadrons made up of RAF personnel from around the UK.
“This is the fifth time I have presented the RAF with a new Colour. On each occasion I have been impressed by the determination, professionalism, skill and commitment with which the RAF serves.”
The Colour was received on behalf of the RAF by Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy, GCB CBE DSO ADC BSc(Eng) FRAeS FCGI, Chief of the Air Staff. He said: “It is a great honour to receive this Colour which will be guarded well and proudly held as an example of all we hold dear in the service. It will be a source of inspiration for all who look upon it.” The Parade then marched past Her Majesty with the new Queen’s Colours and the ceremony closed with the traditional three cheers for the Queen.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh met Military and Civic dignitaries before lunch with RAF personnel, following which they met further RAF personnel and families representing 90 years of the Royal Air Force. The day was completed with a mass flypast – the largest since that which marked the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Britain in 1990, when 168 aircraft flew over Buckingham Palace.
Taking part in the parade just under a year into her RAF service was LAC Cally Robinson, 27, from RAF Lyneham. She said: “I’m immensely proud. I don’t think I will get to see anything like this again and it’s an honour to be here. Lots of nerves were showing before the parade and people were shaking but it all came together on the day. I think it’s fantastic – it just makes me proud.”
Although far more experienced at parades, but enjoying the day no less was Flight Sergeant Rob Ellis, serving with 34 Sqn RAF Regiment from RAF Leeming. A former drill instructor, Rob, 43, has previously trained recruits through no less than 104 passing out parades. He said: “I always feel proud. I have trained the guys from where they have no experience to a standard which is almost that of the Queens’ Colour Squadron. It did feel different knowing that the Queen was watching, but the lads all enjoyed it.”
DAY 9 - Update
With the big day fast approaching and the full dress rehearsal beckoning, the Innsworth and Fairford areas fell into the part of the UK issued with a severe weather warning. A month’s worth of rain was expected to fall in just one day.
Never one to be scared of getting a little bit damp, DOB Commander, Sqn Ldr Marc Cornell, declared that his plan to organise the biggest RAF bleep test ever was still valid – and that those feeling fit should join him on the parade square. The person who lasted the longest would be rewarded with a bottle of champagne.
Undoubtedly, the wet weather did deter all but the most hardy – but more than 60 people still turned up for the fitness test which raised around £140 for Help for Heroes. Just over 20 minutes later, SAC Antony Robinson, 23, from RAF Leuchars, was the last man standing at level 13.5 and claimed his prize.
Sqn Ldr Cornell said: “It’s not very often we get 800 people in one place at one time so I thought it would be a good idea to not only do something with a bit of team spirit and a bit of team building but also an opportunity to raise some funds for Help for Heroes. We’re disappointed about the weather, but there is still a challenge for the team. We’re pretty convinced that nobody has ever done mass PT before so we will count the numbers up at the end and set that for the rest of the Armed Forces.”
In the afternoon, the now familiar double-decker convoy was boarded for the final rehearsal. Bearing in mind the grey skies, best dress was left behind lest it get ruined for the big day. But even that compromise was not good enough for the rain, which continued to pour from the sky – the wind turning it into horizontal blasts. On arriving at RAF Fairford, CAS decreed that it was not to be – the rehearsal was cancelled. Dejected and damp, everyone headed back to Innsworth. The final, final rehearsal now rescheduled for Innsworth in the morning.
Queen’s colours flypast is television spectacular
Television historian Dan Snow today (Thurs 10 July) flew into Royal Air Force Fairford, Gloucestershire, in a Second World War Dakota aircraft of the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight to present live BBC TV coverage of the Presentation of new Colours to the RAF in the United Kingdom, and the RAF Regiment, by Her Majesty the Queen, at Fairford tomorrow (Fri 11 July).
It marks the 90th anniversary of the RAF, and in honour of this significant event the
RAF is staging a 90-aircraft mass flypast featuring most of the aircraft types currently in service, and providing a parade of nearly 800 RAF personnel and more than 60 Squadron Standards to welcome the Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh. It will be watched by 5,000 invited guests representing current serving members of the RAF and its various associations and charities.
Said Dan of the ceremony, held on the eve of the Royal International Air Tattoo: “Colours presentations are very rare in the RAF, and I am very excited with the number of aircraft here, the presence of Her Majesty, and the international aspect as well. And I think with the presence of Henry Allingham, one of the founder members of the RAF, it has all come together.”
Queen’s Colours have so far been awarded to nine formations and establishments of the Royal Air Force and one to the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. They are awarded by the Sovereign in recognition of Service achievement.
“What I love about working for the RAF, and all the Armed Forces, is that there is a deep respect and appreciation of its history, something that inspires excellence in its present and future,” he added. “Yes we have got these Standards and Colours, and we have got veterans from all periods of RAF history, but here we are also surrounded by Typhoons and state-of-the-art weapons systems, and may that excellence continue for generations to come”.
He paid tribute to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight whose Dakota flew him to the ceremony from their base at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire. “They are not just keeping these planes in good condition, and the public finds it so easy to interact with that, but they also are keeping alive something altogether different, both the memory of what went before, but also excellence, which will stand us in good stead for the future”.
The BBC Outside Broadcast will cover the largest ceremonial parade since the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Review of the RAF at RAF Finningley in Yorkshire in 1977 and the largest ceremonial flypast since that which marked the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Britain in 1990, when 168 aircraft flew over Buckingham Palace.
The programme is to be broadcast on BBC 1 between 2.15 and 3.00 pm 11th July.
Queen’s Colours Presentation Flypast - Update
To mark the 90th anniversary of the Royal Air Force (RAF), the Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, will present new Queen’s Colours to the RAF in the United Kingdom and the RAF Regiment during a visit to the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, on Friday 11 July 2008.
In honour of this significant event, the RAF will stage a 90-aircraft mass flypast featuring most of the aircraft types currently in service, followed by flying display vignettes depicting aircraft of the The First World War, the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight from the Second World War and multi-role Eurofighter Typhoons of the present day RAF.
A parade of nearly 800 RAF personnel and more than 60 Squadron Standards will be formed up on the parade ground at Fairford to welcome the Queen watched by 5,000 invited guests representing current serving members of the RAF and its various associations and charities.
This will be the largest RAF parade since the Queen conducted a “Silver Jubilee” Review of the RAF at RAF Finningley, Yorkshire in 1977, while the flypast will be the largest since that which marked the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Britain in 1990, when 168 aircraft flew over Buckingham Palace.
After the Royal salute four Typhoon aircraft will fly past in formation, following which the Queen will be invited to review the Parade. There will then be a drumhead blessing service for the new Queen’s Colours followed by a short speech from the Queen. The Parade will march past Her Majesty with the new Queen’s Colours and the ceremony will close with three cheers for the Queen.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will meet Military and Civic dignitaries before lunch with RAF personnel, following which they will meet further RAF personnel and families representing 90 years of the Royal Air Force, just before viewing the flypast.
DAY 8 - Just three days to go...
With Friday’s Royal Parade just three days away, personnel had their most realistic experience yet with a full rehearsal. Thankfully, the morning dawned a little brighter than Monday, so all survived the experience without getting drenched.
It was a fantastic opportunity for personnel to absorb the full scale of the Colours Presentation – with its rousing band music, precision timing and 61 standards (or big sticks with improvised squares of fabric – the real things are obviously being kept safely away from the bad weather). Adding to the atmosphere was the rehearsal of the mass flypast of RAF aircraft – which could be seen from miles away, and which took almost ten minutes to pass. But today was also a time to find out how difficult it can actually be to stand upright for almost two hours with very little movement. Even on what was quite a cool day, one or two were feeling the strain by the end of it all.
Air Vice-Marshal Dick Garwood, AOC 22 Group, is Senior Responsible Officer in Charge of organising Friday’s event. He is happy with parade performance but, with only a few days to go, feels that some tweaks still need to be made. He said: “I think the marching side looks very good. The problem we have at the moment is on the overall timing and the parade today was just a bit too long. But I think some of that will pick up – and it needs to pick up by the full dress rehearsal tomorrow.”
For AVM Garwood, Friday will be a very important occasion. “It means a lot, particularly in the 90th year of the RAF. To me, if you do an event like this it has to be done on a grand scale. And that’s why we have 760 people on parade with 61 standards and a significant flypast. It has to be done properly or not at all. The colours are so important, both the RAF and the Regiment colours.”
He has also been impressed by the spirit shown by those rehearsing in much more rain than shine. “I feel a great deal of pride. I’ve not met anyone yet – and I’ve spoken to a lot of people here and at Innsworth – who doesn’t want to be here. I’ve met a couple of people who have shifted their resettlement leave to be on this parade. There is no doubt that people want to be here and want to enjoy it and I think the moment you can’t rehearse will be when the Queen is here and we have 5,000 people in the audience. I think it will lift the parade – I think it will be tremendous.”
The final full dress rehearsal is set for tomorrow evening, but even then the weather may have the final say. With the forecast predicting heavy rain in the worst day of the week, the possibility of ruining pressed and polished uniforms and precious standards may just not be worth the risk – which leaves personnel full-on for Friday.
Just another day of the office
If you think organising a stag or hen party is hard, you have to feel sorry for Sqn Ldr Gareth ‘Gaz’ Littlechild. He is the man tasked with getting 90 RAF aircraft, of 27 different types, taking off from 14 stations across the UK, flying at four different speeds, into the same piece of air space at the same time.
If that is not enough, the flypast forms the high point of a ceremony that is taking place in front of Her Majesty, The Queen, only happen once every 15 years, is the largest RAF ceremony in 30 years and he has only one chance to get it right – pressure, what do you mean pressure?
“This is definitely the most challenging non-flying job I have ever done.” said Gareth, a Tornado F3 navigator instructor by background.
But Gareth is no stranger to this type of task. Just four weeks ago he was the man responsible for bringing together the 55 aircraft for the flypast over Buckingham Palace to mark the Queen’s Birthday - and the whole world saw Her Majesty’s reaction to that success. With typical aircrew laissez-faire ‘immensely satisfying’ was how he described seeing his work come to fruition that day.
It will probably come as no surprise, given the current huge operational demands on the RAF at present, to reveal that Gareth’s initial brief was to combine this Friday’s 90 ship flypast with the Queen’s Birthday Flypast, but his feasibility studies soon flagged up the many problems of such a task. The main show-stopper eventually came from direction ‘to include all current aircraft types operated by the RAF’. Since this includes several single engine types, these would be excluded due to airspace restrictions over the capital. The consequence – “Gaz, can you organise something similar for the presentation of new Colours at RIAT?”
That simple question resulted in several months of planning and coordination, involving not just RAF organisations, but several civilian aviation organisations as well. But all that administrative detail pales into insignificance against the challenge of getting the 90 aircraft overhead at the right time, with the right spacing.
“Although writing a workable operation order was incredibly hard work, every single organisation and individual who needed to agree to something have been so supportive, from the CAA at the top to Kemble and Gloucester airports at the working end. What now needs to happen is all the aircraft need to be in the air, in the right formation, in the right order, in the right place, working perfectly at exactly the right moment – easy really.” Said Gareth.
With some of the aircraft - those from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - being nearly 70 years old, and just six standby aircraft available to cover mechanical problems maybe not as easy as Gareth makes it sound.
So, will it work? “The plan is good, aircraft problems we have contingencies for, but I haven’t managed to get a positive return from God on the weather yet.” laughed Gaz.
The aircraft begin their run just after 2pm over the A40 near Andoversford, pass over Chedworth, then cross the B4425 mid-way between Cirencester and Bibury, before passing over the parade at RAF Fairford at 14.31. If you can be under their path you will not be disappointed (cloud permitting). If you miss it, you will probably not get the chance to see such a display of the RAF’s air power again until the RAF’s 100th Anniversary in 10 yrs time.
DAY 7 - Update
Well the rain may have held off for most of Wimbledon but it very nearly stopped play for the lads and lasses rehearsing at RAF Fairford for the first time today. After a week of being put through their paces at Innsworth Station, they boarded a convoy of double-decker buses to make their way to the parade ground that will set the scene for the huge Colours Parade – now just four days away.
Black clouds and showers all morning promised a drenching, and the first flypast rehearsal had to be put on hold because of impending bad weather. But personnel were determined to prove that they were made of strong stuff and, buoyed by a tasty lunch, they took to the parade ground.
The soaking didn’t take long to arrive, but airmen and women stood fast for the rear attack which made them struggle to hear commands over the noise of the rain and filled their shoes in a parade which had quickly become more squelch than stamp. It was an emotional experience, and not one that we wish to be repeated this week.
Nevertheless, just over an hour later the tidal victims had showered, eaten and changed and were almost ready to laugh about their experience – well, almost! They were also proud of the huge progress they have made since arriving at Innsworth just over a week ago. It goes to show that you can’t keep a good team down.
DAY 3 - Update
Things looked even brighter on the parade ground today. Was it the extra time in bed enjoyed by the masses that had ironed away those tired bags under the eyes or was it was the introduction of pristine white gloves that each and every parade participant will be wearing on the day?
To the casual onlooker the scene begged the question as to whether the DOB Commander had taken it upon himself to strike up a sponsorship deal with Daz; but, holding a 8 kilo ceremonial rifle in the heat of July (!), with the nation’s eyes upon you - it could undoubtedly feel like a hot knife through butter should the sweaty palms get the better of you!
With RAF Kinloss basking in the glory of their quiz night triumphs, morale throughout Innsworth station remains buoyant as the moves on the parade ground get slicker day by day.
135 EAW were certainly on their toes again today as they welcomed with open arms more than 200 additional personnel – the standard bearers and escorts. With the full parade compliment in place by close of play tomorrow, Innsworth will swell by another 300 making things just that little bit cosier!
With all the manoeuvres now taught, the end of chapter one on this parade rehearsal epic seemingly draws to a close. Chapter two will certainly kick off with a bang over the weekend when all 800 personnel meet on the parade ground for the first time to the beat of the band.
Will it be rifles at dawn when the ceremonial expertise of the RAF Regiment meets the relative novices of the support units, or will they blend into a crisp and pristine sea of blue fit for a Queen?