Gunners Show Public their Ceremonial and Tactical Skills

Airborne gunners demonstrated both their ceremonial and tactical firing to the public in Colchester this summer.

The 105 mm Light Guns of 7 Para RHA first fired a Royal Salute to mark The Queen’s Official Birthday on 15th June. The guns also opened fire to demonstrate their operational role during the 16 (Air Asslt) Bde and Colchester Garrison Show on 6th July.

Maj Baker, Bty Comd of G Para Bty (Mercer’s Troop), who commanded the guns, said: “Firing a Royal Salute is a great honour and an opportunity to show the Battery in all its finery to the public. We’ve been rehearsing through the week and the men enjoyed performing for an appreciative crowd who joined us to send their congratulations to the Queen.”

Capt Powell, Bty Capt of G Para Bty (Mercer’s Troop), said: “We really enjoy firing for the public. It’s great to get the opportunity to fire twice in Colchester this summer, showing two very different styles of gunnery. We’re very confident about our operational skills and have been working hard to bring our ceremonial firing up to the same standard as it is not something we do frequently.“

The Queen’s Official Birthday event saw a battery of six guns fire a 21-gun Royal Salute at noon, with music from The Band of the Parachute Regiment. Lord Petre, the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, was the Inspecting Officer as the Queen’s representative in the county.

For the first time, a public viewing area was open in Lower Castle Park to allow the public to get closer to the guns and band.

The guns fired were 105 mm Light Guns, the same type used by 7 PARA RHA for its operational role in the Air Assault Task Force, Garrison Comd Col Mike Newman said: “The firing of the Royal Salute is always a very special day for Colchester town, the Garrison and 16 (Air Asslt) Bde. This year, the seventh time a Royal Salute is fired in Colchester, we added a viewing area in Lower Castle Park to let the public get a closer look at the guns.”

The gunners swapped their parade uniforms for camouflage for the 16 (Air Asslt) Bde and Colchester Garrison Show. The show demonstrated the equipment and skills of the Brigade culminating in a dramatic finale of an air assault demonstration, where 7 Para RHA’s guns fired in support.

There are only ten other saluting stations in the UK, all in major cities: Hyde Park, The Tower of London, Woolwich, Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle, Cardiff, Belfast, York, Plymouth and Dover Castle. There are also two in Gibraltar. Colchester was given the honour by Her Majesty The Queen in 2006 as the previous saluting station of Aldershot no longer had artillery stationed in the town.

Gun salutes are customarily fired as a sign of respect or welcome. Just as a salute with the open hand was used to show that no weapon was concealed in the palm, so the firing of cannon as a salute indicated the friendly intent of an empty chamber.

In Britain, royal salutes are fired on specified days every year to celebrate certain royal anniversaries. These are Accession Day, 6th February; The Queen’s birthday, 21st April; Coronation Day, 2nd June; The Queen’s official birthday, June; and The birthday of the Duke of Edinburgh, 10th June. Salutes are also fired for the State Opening of Parliament; when Parliament is prorogued by the Sovereign; and for State visits, timed for when the visiting Head of State first meets the Sovereign.

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