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Final Days of Preparation

Royal Navy personnel conducting dress rehearsal at HMS Sultan
28 April 2023
Sailors and Royal Marines today spoke of their pride at the ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ to take part in next month’s Coronation.

Nearly 900 Royal Navy personnel will march through or line the streets of London on May 6 – or oversee and support the huge ceremonial effort.

They are undergoing the final days of drill and preparation at HMS Excellent in Portsmouth, HMS Sultan in Gosport and HMS Collingwood in Fareham – the culmination of months of planning for the Coronation by the Royal Navy.

For the Navy, the parade is a chance to honour and celebrate ‘one of its own’: the then Prince of Wales served between 1971 and 1976, rising to command minesweeper HMS Bronington before returning to Royal duties.

The event also sees the largest number of Royal Marines on parade in nearly a decade – and an opportunity for the Corps to march for the first time for their new Captain General, an honorary title famously held for decades by the King’s late father.

And sailors from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary – the Navy’s crucial support arm, operating ships worldwide to sustain the global mission – will provide a marching platoon and street liners.

Given the significance of the occasion – the first in 70 years – many personnel of all ranks and branches, drawn from ships, submarines, Fleet Air Arm squadrons, Royal Marines units and bases and Royal Navy Reserve personnel throughout the UK have volunteered to participate.

This is a monumental occasion, one I am very, very proud to be playing a part in. It’s a privilege to be involved. I feel I am not just representing the Navy, but the Commonwealth as well

Able Seaman Atupele Mkulichi

Able Seaman Atupele Mkulichi, from Malawi, joined the Navy 12 months ago and works in the administration centre of RNAS Culdrose in Helston, Cornwall.

She said: “This is a monumental occasion, one I am very, very proud to be playing a part in. It’s a privilege to be involved. I feel I am not just representing the Navy, but the Commonwealth as well.

“The training has been going very well. Everyone has been working extremely hard to make sure it is crisp on the day.”

Alongside her in the Guard of Honour is 20-year-old Able Seaman Sam Stoward from Royal Tunbridge Wells. He wasn’t able to take part in last year’s ceremonies surrounding the Queen’s Funeral so is delighted he was able to volunteer for this memorable event.

He said: “There’s not been a Coronation for 70 years so to be able to take part is immense. To take part in something this big, in front of the whole world is such an honour. I hope we can make it a really special Coronation.

“My family were already proud of me for serving in the Navy. And I am proud to serve in the Royal Navy. I’m a little nervous, but marching out is an experience I share with my colleagues which fills me with immense pride.”

Royal Marines Bugler James Barnes from Birmingham collected a brand new drum featuring the new Royal Cypher only yesterday.

“Everyone here was involved in the Queen’s Funeral so there’s a great sense of pride at being able to be part of the Coronation, the other side of the coin if you like,” he said.

“There’s a great feeling of being part of history once again.”

Lieutenant Tom Bridges, who trains marine engineers at HMS Sultan in Gosport, will be second-in-command of the Guard of Honour.

“His Majesty the King is head of our Armed Forces. He is the boss. But he is also one of us – he is a sailor, he is a Royal Navy officer and I know that the Royal Navy will do him proud,” he said.

All have undergone intensive ceremonial training under a 16-strong team of sailors and Royal Marines – most of whom drilled personnel for duties in September for the funeral of Her Majesty The Queen.

The training has been overseen by Warrant Officer 1 Darren Wearing, the Navy’s State Ceremonial Training Officer who has prepared personnel for major public events, such as Royal weddings and the annual Remembrance parade past the Cenotaph in Whitehall.

Chief Petty Officer Tara Evans has been training both sailors and Royal Marines at HMS Sultan in Gosport and will be in charge of a group of street liners on the day – men and women who perform both a ceremonial and security duty lining the processional route.

“I was involved in the Queen’s Funeral last year so to be involved in the Coronation as well makes me very proud – my family are so proud,” she said.

“The training has been going well – everyone involved knows what they are doing, why, and are proud to be part of it. It’s just a case of repetition now, keep doing the drill so we get it absolutely right.”

The officer leading the entire Naval contingent marching on the day will be marine engineering officer Captain Sophie Shaughnessy, for whom the parade will be her final duty in uniform after 29 years’ service around the world before she leaves the Royal Navy.

“Everyone involved is looking forward to the day – they are all ‘up for it’,” she said. “Right across the Royal Navy, the Coronation is a shared experience. We all share pride in serving in the Navy.

“For me, it’s a career I’ve loved – and my last day is marching for our Commander-in-Chief and King on his Coronation. That makes it a very special day.”

Later in the day, Royal Navy Merlin and Wildcats will take to the skies of the capital, joining fellow aviators from the Royal Air Force and Army Air Corps in the traditional flypast down The Mall and over Buckingham Palace.

In addition to Royal Navy personnel involved in ceremonial aspects of Operation Golden Orb, more than 300 personnel are providing logistical support on the ground both to the military and civilian authorities, including medics, police, drivers, liaison teams and command and control experts.

And away from the capital, gun salutes will be fired at HM Naval Bases Portsmouth and Devonport while Royal Navy ships on deployment around the globe will also be saluting with their ceremonial guns.

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