Home Royals King’s Birthday Parade rehearsal on Horse Guards Parade

King’s Birthday Parade rehearsal on Horse Guards Parade

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Senior Drum Major, WO2 Gareth Chambers leads the Household Division mass band down the Mall on completion of the Major General’s Review. Photographer: Sergeant Rob Kane. UK MOD © Crown copyright 2024. MOD Crown Copyright News / Editorial Licence.

More than 1,000 soldiers and 240 horses from the Household Division paraded in front of 8,000 spectators for the first of three annual world class military demonstrations that culminate with the King’s Birthday Parade on 15th June.

Swords, medals, buttons and breast plates shone while horses and soldiers carried out complex drill manoeuvres to music.

The King’s Birthday Parade is the Household Division’s special opportunity to wish His Majesty a happy birthday and illustrates all that is important about soldiering: discipline, detail, teamwork, commitment and endurance.

This year the honour to Troop their Colour falls to Number 9 Company the Irish Guards and every detail is designed to delight and impress.

The Irish Guards march past the Major General, while saluting to the right. Photographer: Sergeant Rob Kane UK MOD © Crown copyright 2024 –  MOD Crown Copyright News / Editorial Licence.

The music includes “Slattery’s Mounted Fut”, a favourite tune of Her Late Majesty Elizabeth The Queen Mother, Irish Folk songs, and music composed to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day and the Guards Tank Brigade; as well as the reassuringly familiar traditional regimental marches.

The Major General’s Review is the opportunity for Major General James Bowder, the General Officer Commanding The Household Division, to review his troops and ensure that they are of the required standard before The Colonel’s Review next week, and the King’s Birthday Parade on 15th June.

Major General James Bowder was riding ‘Jumping Jack’, a 17-year-old Chestnut Irish gelding standing at 17.1hh, and surprisingly calm and steady despite his lively name. In September 2021 Major General James Bowder became the inaugural Director Futures, responsible for setting the Army’s aiming mark and driving change, before assuming command of London District and the Household Division in October 2023.

General Officer Commanding London District, Major General James Bowder rides behind the troops on parade as part of his inspection. Photographer: Sergeant Rob Kane UK MOD © Crown copyright 2024 –  MOD Crown Copyright News / Editorial Licence.

The King’s Birthday Parade, more popularly known as Trooping the Colour, is when the King’s Colour (Regimental flag) is “Trooped” in front of His Majesty The King and the Regimental Colonels. Many of the movements and drills formed the bedrock of infantry tactics in days gone by and much of the clothing likewise draws its relevance from the frontline battlefields of previous centuries. This custom of honouring the Sovereign’s Birthday was introduced in 1805, though, due to the illness of King George III, it was suspended from 1811-1820.

The ceremony was restored on the accession of King George IV and has, thankfully, thrived until the COVID-19 Pandemic, when smaller parades were held privately in Windsor for The Late Queen’s birthday.

Every man and woman on Horse Guards Parade today is first and foremost, an operational soldier, ready at short notice to operate both here in the United Kingdom and also abroad.

Brigade Major’s Review provides tantalising glimpse of The King’s Birthday Parade Officers of the Grenadier, Welsh and Coldstream Guards march at the front of the formation, up the Mall to Horse Guards Parade. Photographer: Sergeant Rob Kane UK MOD © Crown copyright 2024 –  MOD Crown Copyright News / Editorial Licence.

Following the final parade on June 15th many will switch back to their operational roles in Africa, the Falkland Islands or Estonia. For the Brigade Major Lt Col James Shaw who will lead the Royal Procession down The Mall on the day of The King’s Birthday Parade, this is his third and final Sovereign’s Birthday Parade. He has spent many hours practising his equestrian skills in preparation for the day. He will be riding Sovereign’s Shadow, who he has been bribing with mints and apples to behave on parade!

The parade, also known as Trooping the Colour, has origins tracing back to the Middle Ages, each Lord or Baron flew his banner as a sign by which his followers could distinguish him in battle. As more flags were created they assumed a diversity of hues and came to be called ‘Colours’.

The principal role of a regiment’s Colours was to provide a rallying point on the battlefield. This was essential because, without modern communications, it was all too easy for troops to become disoriented and separated from their unit during conflict. But if troops were to be able to find their Colours in the chaos of the battlefield they needed to be able to recognise them and therefore it became the practice to display them regularly. This was achieved by parading the troops and having an officer march along the ranks with the Colours held high. Colours were last carried into action by the 58th Foot in South Africa in 1881, but ‘trooping’ ceremonies continue to this day. 

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