Royal Navy sailors and Royal Marines around the world have commemorated the death of Her Majesty The Queen – and marked the announcement of His Majesty King Charles III. Across the fleet, on warships, and at naval bases, two very different ceremonial gun salutes echoed across the waves, across the Atlantic, the English Channel, and beyond.
The first saw 96 rounds fired off – one every ten seconds – to commemorate each year of The Queen’s historic life. This Death Gun Salute was fired at 1300 on September 9.
The second gun salute, a traditional Royal Salute of 21 rounds, announced His Majesty King Charles III on September 10.
Flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth carried out her salutes as she sailed for the USA, with her escort HMS Richmond following suit.
HMS Albion completed hers as she prepares to lead a task group to the Mediterranean, while support ship RFA Argus – alongside her embarked 845 and 847 Naval Air Squadrons – held a memorial service.
The whole crew on HMS Northumberland took part in their 21-gun salute, with a different sailor firing each round while the remaining ship’s company lined the deck, with Commander Edwards-Bannon on the port bridge wing with the youngest sailor on board Engineering Technician (Marine Engineering) Brendan Passingham.
HMS Westminster completed the same ceremonial duty as she continues operations in waters close to the UK.
“Throughout her life and the 70 years of her reign Queen Elizabeth II dedicated herself to the selfless service of the Nation and Commonwealth,” said HMS Queen Elizabeth’s Commanding Officer, Captain Ian Feasey.
“She was our exemplar of duty, self-sacrifice and loyalty which all those who serve in the Royal Navy attempt to emulate.
“As the Fleet Flagship we were blessed to have a special relationship with her as our Lady Sponsor. The thoughts and prayers of my ship’s company are with the members of the Royal family at this time of deep personal sadness as the nation mourns.”
At Naval Base Portsmouth, Chief Petty Officer Brooke Hewitt gave the order to fire the 96-gun salute, while Warrant Officer Second Class Andrew Stottor did the same at Naval Base Devonport. There were also gun salutes in Gibraltar.
On ships and bases, sailors and Royal Marines also gathered to watch their new commander in chief, King Charles III, give his first speech on September 9.
And, at HMS Excellent in Portsmouth, sailors reported for duty to be tasked for roles and get outfitted with ceremonial uniforms to take on rigorous training in preparation for The Queen’s funeral.
A bit about gun salutes
Gun salutes are customarily fired, both on land and at sea, as a sign of respect or welcome. Today gun salutes mark special occasions on certain days of the year, many of them with royal associations.
Gun salutes occur on the following royal anniversaries: Accession Day, the Monarch’s birthday, Coronation Day, the Monarch's official birthday, The State Opening of Parliament, royal births, and when a visiting Head of State meets the sovereign in London, Windsor or Edinburgh.
The tradition of gun salutes routinely being fired throughout the country to mark significant national events dates back centuries, and there are historical records of salutes taking place as early as the 14th century when guns and ammunition began to be adopted widely. Similar gun salutes were fired to mark the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 and Winston Churchill in 1965.
A traditional Royal Salute comprises 21 rounds. A further 20 rounds are fired in royal parks, such as Hyde Park. At the Tower of London, a royal salute comprises the traditional 21 rounds, a further 21 rounds to show the loyalty of the City of London to the Crown, and a final 20 rounds as the tower is royal palace and fortress.