The Guard, made up of two P2000 patrol boats HMS Trumpeter and Ranger, two Picket Boats, two Rigid Inflatable Boats from HMS Diamond, and four Off-shore Raiding Craft from 539 Assault Squadron Royal Marines – was followed by The Massed Bands of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines who piped the boats along the river.
The weekend’s Jubilee celebrations had begun on Friday where the Royal Navy’s newest warship HMS Diamond fired a 21-gun salute in honour of Her Majesty as she entered Portsmouth Naval Base. A flypast of four Royal Navy Merlin and Lynx helicopters hovered above the ceremonial entrance in a diamond formation.
Captain Mark Durkin, who helped coordinate HMS Diamond’s arrival, said: “The 21-gun salute is a Royal salute. It goes back to the days when a foreign warship would approach a foreign nation and discharge its weapons to indicate it posed no threat to that country.
“In return the country would fire a return salute to acknowledge that fact. This then became formal ceremony and today we acknowledge the Queen’s tremendous achievement with 60 years on the throne.”
The Royal Navy then joined the River Pageant on Sunday where more than a million people lined the banks of the Thames on Sunday to watch the flotilla of tugs, steamers, pleasure craft, dragon boats, kayaks and Royal Navy minehunter HMS Hurworth weave their way across the water.
The pageant officially started at 1440BST with the ringing of the Jubilee bells and the boats sailing from Battersea Bridge, ending after the final vessel passed under Tower Bridge shortly after 1800.
As the Royal Barge passed HMS Belfast, Royal Navy veterans and Sea Cadets piped Her Majesty The Queen, His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh and members of the Royal family, giving them the traditional Naval three cheers.
After travelling at the head of the pageant the Queen left the Spirit of Chartwell and was escorted into the naval regional headquarters HMS President by the First Sea Lord, Sir Mark Stanhope where she then watched the rest of the boats sailing past.
The Royal Naval Reserves formed a Guard of Honour at President to receive the Queen where they presented the Queen’s Colour of the RNR in her presence for the first time since it was given to them the year following her Golden Jubilee.
Commanding Officer of HMS President, Commander Eugene Morgan said: “It’s a great honour for HMS President to host Her Majesty on this special day. I am most proud of all the maritime reserves who worked so hard to make today such a success.”
Lieutenant Tony Scott, a Royal Naval Reservist based at President and is also a Global Enterprise Architect for Arup, was part of the pageant on the unit’s cutter Arthur Tisdall VC.
He said: “Flying the White Ensign in the middle of the Thames is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We were able to salute the Queen at the very start at Battersea Bridge and also at President. The atmosphere was absolutely superb, it was so well organised and even when the heavens opened there was nothing that could dampen our spirits.”
Sadly the finale of a planned aerial spectacular by the Fleet Air Arm – a 9 helicopter strong diamond formation led by Second World War bi-plane Swordfish – had to be cancelled due to the stormy weather conditions.
HMS Diamond’s commanding officer Commander Ian Clarke, who was interviewed live on BBC One’s Jubilee coverage on Sunday, added: “It is fantastic to see such a great maritime event at the heart of the Diamond Jubilee.”
Naval Today Staff, June 5, 2012; Image: Navy