The highlight of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations will be on June 3rd when her Royal Barge heads a procession of a thousand boats along the Thames. It’s the biggest event of its kind ever staged in Britain and young officers from the Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth will be right at the heart of it.
Picket boats from the college will flank the barge, ‘The Spirit of Chartwell’, as it heads down a nine mile stretch of the Thames from Battersea Bridge, through the centre of London, and on to Tower Bridge. The Queen will then take the salute and watch the rest of the flotilla pass from HMS President, the shore base of the Royal Navy Reserve.
This week the teams have been rehearsing their manoeuvres in the River Dart at Dartmouth, using the pleasure boats which ply the river to stand in for the Royal Barge. The tourists can truly say they’ve been treated like Royalty. The West Country Tonight filmed some of the rehearsals:
The two picket boats which will flank the bows of the Royal Barge are based at the college and used to train the officer cadets in ship-handling. They’ll be manned by young officers who passed out from Britannia only last month.
– Sub-Lieutenant Matthew Brown from Kingston near Modbury
It’s an absolutely fantastic opportunity. I joined the Navy only last September and now to be gifted this is an absolutely fantastic honour and I’m really looking forward to getting out on the Thames and showing everyone what we can do.
The eyes of the world will be on the young teams as television pictures of the pageant are beamed around the globe.
Immediately behind the college boats will be Royal Marines off-shore raiding craft manned by Commandos from 539 Assault Squadron from Turnchapel on Plymouth Sound.
Also flanking the Royal Barge will be two rigid hulled inflatables usually carried on frigates and destroyers. They’ve been in action recently off Somalia where Royal Navy raiding parties have been stopping and searching suspected pirate vessels.
Bringing up the rear will be P2000 patrol craft from the University Royal Navy Unit crewed by students from the officer cadet units at Sussex and Cambridge Universities. Immediately after the pageant they’ll be heading off for summer exercises in the Baltic.
The crews say their training this week has been going well and are looking forward to coming under the spotlight as they escort the Queen on this historic occasion.