Today being the Prince of Wales’s birthday, the King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery fired a 41 gun salute in Hyde Park. The Troop, dating from 1793, is nowadays a mostly ceremonial unit. It comprises six World War One vintage 13 pounder field guns which are drawn by teams of six horses each. In support of creating lots of noise and smoke, they have a fine military band. Their HQ is in St John’s Wood in convenient proximity to Hyde Park where most of their duties are performed.
These highly trained soldiers provide a wonderful spectacle. You’re first aware of them from afar at the north edge of the park, seemingly a single thin line. As they approach at the gallop you discern they are six separate groups. Closer still and you hear the sound of the hooves pounding the soil, horses breathing hard and the distinctive jangle of the traces, harnesses and shiny metal that yoke horse, man, ammunition and weapon together: a daunting combination on the battlefields of yore. In no time flat the horse are de-coupled and the guns are brought into action. A matter of seconds later the guns are booming, each in turn for the salute, but in battle conditions it would be terrifying salvoes.
As quickly as they arrived, all the elements are re-united and the Troop proudly exits the field, at the gallop. An impressive show indeed.
In addition to today’s proceedings, the King’s Troop also performs on the monarch’s birthday, the State Opening of Parliament, Remembrance Sunday (just two rounds marking the start and end of two minutes’ silence) and other ad-hoc State ceremonial occasions.
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