BLISTERED feet, bruised collar bones and aching muscles are the prices a select few hundred Armed Forces personnel are paying for being part of the first-ever Platinum Jubilee pageant.
Troops aged from 18 through to 64 made up the 1,390 Armed Forces volunteers who took part in the historic event on Sunday.
For one Royal Navy reservist, AB James Fry, being a part of the pageant is extra special as his grandfather, Bertram Fry, was involved in the Queen’s Coronation parades on June 2, 1953.
The 18-year-old said: “On a personal level it’s great to be in the Jubilee Pageant because my grandfather was in the Coronation parade.
“I’ve been looking forward to this since I volunteered weeks ago.”
Fry, who is currently undertaking basic training for the Navy, opted to be part of the parade with the reservists, which he joined at 16.
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He is the fourth family member to have served, with his grandma and aunt also serving in the Navy reserves.
While Fry is unsure what role his grandfather took in the Coronation parade, he is proud to have continued a family tradition of being at the Queen’s most important celebrations.
He said: “My grandad also served in my old reserve unit so it was natural for me to go into the navy.
“It’s nice that I can carry on a tradition and have this once in a lifetime link back to him.”
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The special parade incorporated all three sections of the Armed Forces and saw them march for two miles in a loop covering The Mall, past the cenotaph, Whitehall and Admiralty Arch.
The oldest person in the pageant was Warrant Officer Tony Matthews, who is 64 and has served for over 40 years with the Royal Navy reservists.
He said: “It’s a great honour to go out on. Not many people will be able to say they marched in the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. I’m really proud to say I did.”
During his military career, he has conducted at least five or six ceremonial duties a year and this time he is acting as a marshal to keep everything in order.
Age doesn't matter
Mr Matthews reckons he has managed to bag the oldest spot because his bosses value ability, not age.
He said: “The Navy doesn’t care about your age, they care about your capability. It doesn’t matter how old you are, if you’re still contributing then they’ll keep you on.”
The parade was the second big event for the Army this weekend after the Trooping of the Colour which happened on Thursday and featured the Household Guards alongside the Household Cavalry.
The impressive spin wheel performed by the band on June 1 has been passed down via memory through generations of musicians and was never written down.
Thankfully for the 770 troops who appeared in Sunday’s pageant things are simpler and they have practised the two mile march almost daily for weeks.
This has included several dawn rehearsals with the rest of the forces in London while most people were sleeping.
The Army was the only section that featured troops on horseback with 200 in their ranks pulled from the Mounted Band of the Household Cavalry, The Life Guards, The Blues and Royals, and The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery.
The final section of the Armed Forces was the RAF, with some of their recruits hailing from commonwealth countries.
Leading Aircraftman Ramund Barrett, 28, is the first member of his family to join British ranks, with the rest serving in Jamaican counterparts.
He said: “It’s an honour to be in this and I hope I can inspire my children to go into the forces themselves.
“Although at the moment they mainly want me home.”
He, along with 420 other aviators which include reservists, were put through gruelling conditioning training to make sure they are fit for the honour of the Platinum Jubilee Pageant.
This is not just a moment in a lifetime, this is a moment in history
RAF ceremonial advisor Wing Commander Paul Crook told The Sun how unnatural a lot of the movements are for all of those involved.
He said: “We’ve replicated everything as best we can so our troops know what to expect on the day.
“It’s not natural to take 120 paces a minute which are 30 inches long unless you’re over six foot. It’s tough and we’ve had to make sure all of our aviators are ready for that.
“The girls can get bruised shoulders from manoeuvring the rifles, which is again not a natural movement, and we’ve got a lot of people with sore feet from all the marching.”
But it’s not all doom and gloom, almost all of the aviators involved volunteered for the honour.
Among the ranks were Senior Aircraftwoman Sian Hesleton, 18, who is starting her career with the pageant, and Flight Lieutenant Tamsin Wakeham, 52, who trained Prince Harry when he underwent the gruelling Survive, Evade, Resist, Extract Training back in 2012.
Ft Lft Wakeham told how she was happy the Duke of Sussex was present for the military arm of the celebrations in honour of the Queen.
While SAC Hesleton said: “It’s an honour for this to be the start of my career. I’ve definitely got bruises on my collarbones but you just push through it.
“It’s an amazing thing to be part of.”
The RAF’s group consisted of Royal Airforce College Cranwell, The Combined Bands of the Royal Air Force, Royal Air Force Marham, Royal Auxiliary Air Force, and 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force.
Preparing all of the aviators for the celebration has been no small task for Wing Commander Crook, but he is thrilled to have played a part in history.
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He said: “This is not just a moment in a lifetime, this is a moment in history. In all likelihood we will never have a platinum jubilee again.
“Being a part of it is an honour.”
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