On deployment in the Gulf, on patrol in the Atlantic, safeguarding home waters or undergoing training at bases in the UK, sailors lined up on parade grounds and flight decks to celebrate Her Majesty’s 70-year reign and this weekend’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
Few places in the entire Armed Forces have closer personal and emotional ties with Her Majesty than Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, spiritual home of the Royal Navy’s officer cadre:
• Her great grandfather Edward VII laid the foundation stone of the imposing red-brick college on the hillside above the town and River Dart in 1902;
• Her father, the future George VI, passed out of Dartmouth having completed his training as a junior officer a decade later;
• As did her cousin, the future Lord Mountbatten, who was also the uncle of
• Prince Philip of Greece, whom the Queen famously met at Dartmouth on the eve of WW2 and who was her husband for more than 70 years;
• She visited on numerous occasions between 1964 and 2011 in her role as Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom;
• Her two eldest sons passed out of the College in 1970s;
• And most recently her grandson, the Duke of Cambridge, went through accelerated officer training at Dartmouth as he learned about the roles of all three Armed Forces.
So a tribute on the parade ground in front of the College by Officer Cadets and the establishment’s full-time personnel seemed more than fitting.
“Throughout the long life of Her Majesty, the story of Britannia Royal Naval College has been intertwined with her own – from generations of her family passing out to her many inspirational visits, which have been so warmly appreciated by all who live and work at the College,” said Captain Sarah Oakley, Captain Britannia Royal Naval College.
“On behalf of all the officers, cadets and staff at the College, I send our warmest and most sincere greetings to Her Majesty as she celebrates her Platinum Jubilee.
“It is fitting that as the next generation of naval officers embark on their naval careers, we all reflect on the outstanding example of service of Her Majesty the Queen.”
On HMS Queen Elizabeth – formally named by The Queen in 2014 and commissioned in her presence three years later – 308 sailors, nearly half the ship’s company, were marshaled on the flight deck of the south coast of England.
“From HMS Queen Elizabeth, the Fleet Flagship, and the wider Royal Navy, we send our best wishes to Her Majesty the Queen on the occasion of her Platinum Jubilee, celebrating 70 years of her reign,” said Commanding Officer Captain Ian Feasey.
“Each of us that has the honor to serve in HMS Queen Elizabeth takes inspiration from our Sponsor, Her Majesty the Queen, who has dedicated her life to service and duty. These selfless qualities are central tenets of our ship’s ethos and the Royal Navy.”
The giant ‘E II R’ formation was recorded by one of the Royal Navy’s most seasoned professional photographers, Leading Seaman Dan Rosenbaum. The 42-year-old from Hertfordshire spent an hour above the flagship in a Merlin helicopter, advising the ship hundreds of feet below on her movements to get the best shot.
“There are many considerations to take into account,” said Dan. “The larger the ship, the higher you need to be, for example. But the biggest factor is the weather.
“The direction of the sun is important – the carrier’s two towers cast huge shadows over the flight deck, so you want the shadows over the sea.
“Wind speed is key. Because the flight deck is high above the water, the wind is much stronger. And although the flight deck team are used to that, most of the ship’s company are not, so you need calmer conditions.”
As with the rest of the Royal Navy, 250 sailors on the flagship were presented with Platinum Jubilee medals – awarded to personnel with more than five years’ service – in the carrier’s cavernous hangar.
And all members of the ship’s company aged over 18 also celebrated ‘Splice the Mainbrace’ – a tot of rum ¬– awarded by Prince Charles in recognition of their achievements last year on the carrier’s successful maiden deployment.
Amongst those decorated was Warrant Officer 1 Michael Baxendale, who is the Weapons’ Department Departmental Coordinator.
“I have served in the Royal Navy for 32 years and this is my fifth splice the mainbrace. It’s been an honor to receive the Jubilee Medal on the Nation’s Flagship,” he said. More than half the crew of HMS Lancaster – on patrol in the Atlantic – formed up on their much smaller flight deck for their tribute.
The frigate is named after The Queen in her capacity as Duke of Lancaster. She launched the Portsmouth-based warship in 1990 and has visited on several occasions since, as well as being kept regularly informed of HMS Lancaster’s progress.
Her sister ship HMS Montrose joined in the celebrations whilst returning from a successful counter-drugs patrol in the Gulf of Oman.
And the parade grounds at HMS Sultan and Commando Training Centre Royal Marines provided ample space respectively for trainee engineers at the Navy’s School of Engineering in
Gosport to take a break from lessons to spell out 70 and form two large propellers, and 105 trainee Royal Marines determined to earn the coveted green beret to create a large 70.