Royal Navy at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Topic: Fighting armsRoyal Marines

The Royal Navy is proudly leading the military's support to this year's spectacular Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

Members of all fighting arms of the Senior Service are coming together, showing the team works by performing a number of vital roles both in the auditorium and out of sight of the vast numbers attending the four-week event.

From the Guard of Honour's ceremonial contribution to the show, to the musical excellence of the Massed Bands of the Royal Marines; and from the team transforming the esplanade at Edinburgh Castle to resemble an aircraft carrier flight deck to those ferrying performers to and from the venue and looking after their welfare, all undertake their roles with enthusiasm, talent, professionalism and dedication.

Type 23 frigate HMS Somerset will be berthed in Leith for the final week hosting capability demonstrations and VIP dinners with guests including representatives of NATO member nations, further building our relationships with international allies.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is a huge production, featuring a cast of 1,200 performing to a live audience of 220,000 and a global TV audience of more than 100 million over the course of its run from August 4th to 26th.

Those audiences watch a polished and professional production. What they don't see are the scores of people behind the scenes helping to make it all happen.

One of the teams tasked with this is the Tattoo Support Group (TSG). Providing assistance to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo Company, TSG is a 90-strong group led by and including Royal Marines and Royal Navy personnel providing manpower to supplement the arena team, organisation and welfare services to participants, as well as transport, VIP escorting and set moving tasks. It is a vital component of the world famous show at Edinburgh Castle's esplanade.

Second in Command of TSG is Surgeon Lieutenant Deona Chan. The 34-year-old, who was born in Hong Kong but moved with her family to Edinburgh aged 15, has multiple roles at the Tattoo.

She is also a Guard Officer for the six Royal Navy nights on August 16th, 19th and 21st to 24th, when VIPs including Princes Charles and William and leading Naval figures from NATO partner nations France, Norway, The Netherlands and the USA are hosted by British counterparts.

In addition to escorting the salute taker on some evenings, she dons period costume to appear as a Red Coat Officer in the scenes from the Jacobite Risings and works in the control room.

The General Duty Medical Officer, based at Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ) in Northwood, said: "I did theatre when I was 15 and really enjoyed it but gave it up for my exams, so it's really nice to experience performing again.

"It's bitter-sweet for me however as, when I was 16, I had the chance to go to the Tattoo because my friend's dad had a spare ticket but I turned it down because it was a school night. When I found out I would be part of the Tattoo, I really wanted to tell him but he died a few years ago. I think he would have been really proud and I think of him when I perform."

It's a far cry from her normal role within the Medical Branch which, in 2006 saw her deployed to Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, two years after joining the service. "There were big challenges," she said. "Dealing with very serious injuries and sometimes mass casualties was a steep learning curve."

The former St Serfs School, Haymarket pupil has also cared for personnel on HMS Scott carrying out surveillance in the North Atlantic and Royal Fleet Auxiliary Lyme Bay on Operation KIPION, a long-standing maritime presence in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean to promote peace and stability in the at region.

"It was challenging, the first being very far from land and very isolated and the second because of the large number of personnel I was dealing with."

Deona left the Navy in 2007 to study at Dundee University, where she achieved Masters Degrees in medicine, anatomy and anthropology plus a PhD before re-joining as planned in 2009.

She said: "I really like the way of life in the Navy and can't imagine not being in the Navy."

Lieutenant James Cain is Third in Command of TSG as well as Officer Commanding the contingent from K Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines.

"It's a bit nerve-wracking but good fun. For me, taking the salute is the best bit, meeting the VIPs and introducing them to the clans is a real honour."

Celebrating Scotland's 'Year of Heritage, History and Archaeology', and in keeping with this year's Tattoo theme 'Splash of Tartan', the Tattoo and the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs have joined together to involve Scottish clans and families. Clan chiefs have been invited to lead their clansmen to Edinburgh Castle, on their own special designated evenings, and took part in the opening ceremony.

The 26-year-old, from Richmond in North Yorkshire, is another TSG member appearing as a Red Coat Officer in theJacobite Risings scenes. He said: "I am really enjoying it. It's so different to what I normally do as a Troop Commander."

That role with 4 Troop K Company of 42 Commando, Royal Marines, which the ex-Richmond School student will soon swap for J Company as a Boarding Team Commander.

A recent highlight was cold weather warfare training in Norway. James said: "It was a fantastic experience in an extremely arduous environment with deep snow and temperatures of -20C. We also got the chance to ski, although it was my first time and I wasn't particularly good at it. But it was great to get to know the lads in the field and I couldn't have asked for a better start to my troop command."

Also part of TSG is a group of six young men known as The Glasgow Boys as part of a Scottish Violence Reduction Unit, Police Scotland initiative to mentor offenders or those who are in danger of falling into a life of crime.

As part of their rehabilitation, they get to work at the Tattoo. It's an opportunity they would not have expected and James says they have worked really hard and responded well to their military role models who they play football and go to the gym with outside their duties.

One of The Glasgow Boys, 20-year-old Patrick, who doesn't have a criminal record, is really enjoying the experience. A former soldier, his conversations with Navy personnel has led to him deciding to join the service in the near future.

He said: "I heard about this opportunity at the job centre and jumped at the chance. I have always been into the military and want to get back into it. I was in the Army for two years and want to try the Navy now because what I have heard about it while here really appeals to me. Some of the others are also considering careers in the military."

I really like the way of life in the Navy and can't imagine not being in the Navy.

Surgeon Lieutenant Deona Chan