News

Navy practises key role in Thames Diamond Jubilee pageant
21 May 2012

Royal Navy sailors have fine-tuned their skills before they protect the Queen’s Royal Barge at the Diamond Jubilee.

Sailors and Royal Marines took to a plethora of small boats and raiding craft to flank a pleasure cruiser which was standing in for the boat which the Queen will use for the June 3 pageant on the Thames.

Pictures: PO(Phot) Gaz Armes, FRPU East

TWO picket boats and a flotilla of RIBs and ORCs muster around a pleasure cruiser as sailors and Royal Marines practise their key role in next month’s Diamond Jubilee river pageant.

Devon’s River Dart was the setting for this dry run of the Thames spectacular, which will see some ten vessels under the White Ensign forming a Royal Squadron to escort the Queen from Albert Bridge in Chelsea to Tower Bridge.

As hundreds of craft fill London’s great artery on Sunday June 3, the Royal Squadron will form around the Royal Family, being carried on the Spirit of Chartwell.

The squadron will comprise two P2000 patrol boats, two picket boats from Britannia Royal Naval College, two Pacific 24 RIBs from Type 45 destroyer HMS Diamond and four Offshore Raiding Craft from 539 Assault Squadron Royal Marines.

Navigating the tricky, fast-flowing waters of the Thames is challenge enough – but doing so amid the throng of small craft means the crews in the Royal Squadron can’t afford any mistakes.

So training has been taking place on the River Dart below the imposing outline of Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, with the pleasure boat Dart Explorer standing in for the Royal vessel.

The ten RN vessels and their crews participating have been put through their paces by Lt Cdr Steve Walton, staff officer for the 1st Patrol Boat Squadron, based in Portsmouth.

Under his watchful eye, the small, manoeuvrable craft have been practising their formation skills to ensure the Navy provides a fitting waterborne escort to the Royal Barge.

“The training for the river pageant has gone extremely well and I’m confident about our ability to deliver on the day,” said Lt Cdr Walton. “We are extremely honoured to have been chosen to represent the Royal Navy at such a prestigious event and we are all completely focused on ensuring the Royal Squadron fulfils it obligations during our transit down river with the Royal Barge.”

Among those participating on the big day is 25-year-old Sub Lt Alex Wale from Grantham in Lincolnshire.

She said: “I’m really excited to be taking part in something that is such a one-off. My parents are really pleased and proud, but not as much as me.

“I’m going to be a warfare officer so I’ve spent much of time at Dartmouth learning navigation, and this is an excellent challenge for us at a high-profile event.”

Each of the boats and craft taking part will be issued with the Pageant Flag to be flown at all times during the waterborne procession – the flag comes in three different sizes, with a burgee or sticker for those vessels that cannot carry a flag.

One of the music herald barges will contain a Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines to play supporting music for the waterborne parade.

Of course, the RN’s premier musicians will be called into service elsewhere over the Jubilee celebrations – RM bandsmen, along with Army and RAF counterparts, will be heard along the processional route on Tuesday June 5 when the Queen will attend St Paul’s Cathedral for the Service of Thanksgiving.

More than 1,000 personnel from all three Services will be arrayed along the capital’s streets for the carriage procession through the heart of the city on Tuesday June 5.

There’s more information on the river pageant at www.thamesdiamondjubileepageant.org and about the wider Diamond Jubilee celebrations at www.diamondjubilee.org