Monday, 30 June 2014

Royal Garden Party Attendance by SSgt Standley RLC (237 Squadron in West Bromwich)

When you arrive back to work after your Christmas and New Year break it can seem a very long time to the summer and those lazy hazy days drinking Pimm’s (other drinks are available). So, as in previous years one of the first emails which arrives, comes courtesy of the adjutant, this year on the 6th January which gives individuals the opportunity to apply to attend the Queen’s Garden Party.  Being in my 40th year of service either as a Regular, Reservist or in my current guise a Non-Regular Permanent Staff employee, I figured that this year it must be my turn!  So I filled in my application and applied for myself and my good lady to attend one of the dates available. Then as in previous years forgotten about…. until!!!!

ER2 envelop cover sent to SSgt Standley of 159 Supply Regiment inviting him to Buckingham Palace

 Lets fast forward now to the 23rd April, many celebrations in the Standley house as it is our 26th Wedding Anniversary so as I departed for work with the words “Thought you could at least have had the day off to be with me as I’ve taken time off” (whoops).  Then I receive a call mid-morning asking what I have done wrong as there appears to be a letter which has arrived from the Palace, I think I may know what it is, and sure enough we had been fortunate enough to receive an invite to this year’s Queen’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace.

So off we set to attend on the 3rd June on a lovely sunny day.  We arrived in London in good time to check into our hotel and got dressed into our outfits for the day – with the wife looking pretty good in a spotty number with various matching items and if I have to say so myself, I looked pretty cool too.

Buck Palace aerial view
We left in good time to arrive at the palace for about 3.15pm and on arrival we joined the queue with other attendees.  We spent about 15 minutes in the queue, then we were into the main gate after the first security check had taken place, then you get to walk under ‘THE BALCONY’ and through the courtyard and the inner quadrangle and finally through the rear part of the Palace for the final security check and on into the garden.

The garden was laid out with two long marquees and two military band areas and the Royal Tea Tent (for invited guests only) along with numerous tables and chairs dotted around the garden’s grassed area.  It is indeed a sight with about 6000 guests present and to be fair it is a very, very big garden.  At approximately 15.55hrs (5 minutes early) this due to the weather I think, more on that later, the Royal Party arrives headed by the Queen with various family members which this year included The Duke of Edinburgh, Charles and Camilla, Edward and Sophie and also many of the younger members. 

Crowds forming in back of palace
The event started with the National Anthem, then this year it was followed by what can only be described as a downpour of biblical proportions which then changed all the plans for the day so instead of four different Royal groups mingling and talking to as many people as possible the Royal family are ushered as fast as possible, to the Royal Tea Tent with attendants producing brollies as if by magic!!! 

With all the other guests all trying to squeeze into a marquee that is probably large enough for about a third of the invited guests.  It was at this time we realised that the expensive matching brolly was indeed not that much use ….as it was still in the hotel room!!!!

Storm clouds over Buckingham Palace 

Then as suddenly as the rain started out came the sun, so time to leave the marquee and explore the gardens and take a few pictures.  Whilst blatant photography up-close of the Palace itself was frowned upon, the advent of camera phones meant we were safe taking a few of the grounds. 

Buckingham Palace Gardens

The gardens and the lake at Buckingham Palace are huge and it took around an hour to walk round, soaking up the atmosphere of the day and people watching (especially some poor ladies whose heels sunk deep into the grass!).  The afternoon was finished off with the National Anthem again as the Royal Party disappear inside; we, guests, then become the tourist attraction as we leave the Palace to much public interest and camera snapping.

The history bit now, the Queen’s Garden Party, albeit originally a breakfast party, primarily for debutants and the likes, started in the 1860s by Queen Victoria and took place twice a year.  By the 1950s there were three a year and took the form of an afternoon tea party between the hours of 4 and 6pm and, along with the Royals, there are also present the Yeoman of the Guard, Gentleman at Arms and Gentleman Ushers.  At the garden party, you will see and meet many members of the public and service personnel from around the Commonwealth, there are also numerous attendees from across all religious divides, classes and race.  With people attending in National costume, or Service personnel in uniform (albeit not required), lounge suits or morning suits; and ladies in a whole variety of outfits and hats (Dress as if you were attending a wedding being the best advice).

SSgt Stabdley and spouse at the Queen's Garden Party at Buckingham Palace

It is an event to be part of and savoured.  Both my wife and I feel privileged to have received an invite and to be able to attend an event which is part of British history.  So next January do not forget fill in your application, as you too could be partying at the palace later in the year.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Sailing Course in Germany - By Corporal D Gibbs AGC (SPS) (243 HQ Squadron RLC)

A party of 12 soldiers from different squadrons of 159 Regiment RLC arrived at Kiel Yachting Club early in the afternoon of Friday 16th May.  It was a beautiful place with views from the harbour looking across the Baltic ocean to the coastline of the rugged landscape of the northern fjords in Germany.  

Once all the logistics of accommodation had been organised we were introduced to the instructors and split into two groups, one for sailing the other for powerboating.  After collecting our prospective wet weather gear for the following four days, the rest of the day was ours and we took the time to explore the local town and surrounding harbour area.

Saturday morning began at 5am with beautiful clear skies but by breakfast fog had come in from the ocean reducing visibility to about 500 metres.  However by 10am, beautiful blue skies again, a sharp warning of how quickly the weather could change in this area.  The day began with a lesson in the classroom regarding safety and the aims of the course.  We then all piled out to our various boats.  Myself, WO2 Williams (243 Coventry Squadron) and Sgt Johnson (123 Telford Squadron) made up a three man crew for our powerboat with instructor Nigel.

We spent the morning learning basic navigation in the harbour.  At a speed of 2 knots we learnt how to steer, moor and leave a jetty and how to keep a boat motionless. After lunch we left the harbour area and Nigel demonstrated controlled faster moves, at 7 knots, which we all had a go at.  Below is Sgt Johnson practising steering with Nigel and WO2 Williams looking on.

159 Supply Regiment Reservists sailing in Germany

Sunday morning was spent consolidating low speed manoeuvers, learning how to turn the boat 180 degrees on the spot followed by some slalom navigating. We crossed the bay to Laboe for lunch and  visited the German submarine.  It was fascinating to see where so many men lived underwater in exceptionally cramped conditions, even the officers.  Below, sleeping quarters for seven men and a torpedo!

After lunch we ventured further out into the ocean where we could travel up to 20 knots and learnt high speed turning and emergency stopping. ‘Bob’ was used for man overboard drills, which came in very handy as I was thrown overboard the next day, just hours after we were awarded our personal certificates for power-boating- enough said!

Monday morning we took our test, which we all passed.  To celebrate we returned to Laboe for their famous fish and chips.  We spent the final hour of the afternoon speeding around the open ocean doing amazing figures of eight and just generally having fun.  

Our course only lasted three days, so all six of us who were on the power-boats had a spare day on Tuesday.  We were allowed to take a yacht out (with an instructor) to learn some basic yachting skills.  This was a completely different experience from power-boating, a much slower but definitely more difficult skill to acquire.  Below, myself and Sgt Johnson are raising the sails.

159 Supply Regiment Reservist Corporal Dawn Gibbs sailing a yacht in Germany

With beautiful weather, we again crossed the bay to Laboe.  We visited the War Museum and climbed the Naval War Memorial which stands a staggering 279 feet above sea level.

The whole adventurous training package was a truly remarkable and amazing experience.

For more information on sailing and other adventurous training opportunities, all paid for, visit your local Army Reserve Centre or search for Army Reserve careers.