Saturday, 8 November 2014

The Royal Tournament

"Come on, Chatham!"

My father's yell almost made me squirm with embarrassment.  People in all the seats around us were turning to see who was making all the noise and I was at the age when I hated having attention drawn to me like that.

We - my parents, my brother and I - were at Earl's Court, the big exhibition hall in London, to watch the Royal Tournament.  I think that somewhere along the line my memory must be playing up because i thought we had gone on a coach trip organised by the sailors at Chatham for themselves and their families.  But in that case, surely most of the nearby seats would have been taken up by others yelling "Come on, Chatham!"  But memory false or true, we were most certainly watching the navy field gun crews, a regular feature of the Tournament.

The Royal Tournament was a great institution with numerous static displays for people to wander around before taking their seats.  There were competitions in the arena featuring horse riders with lances or swords; not jousting or anything like that, but picking up hoops or tent pegs and so on.

Then came the best part - the show.  There were military bands, drill displays, the White Helmets motorcycle display team of the Royal Signals, RAF police dogs, the musical drive of the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery - and the Royal Navy field gun crews.  I thought it a great shame that cuts in the defence budget meant that this show had to be cancelled in (I think) 1999 but it has been re-invented as the British Military Tournament, although that runs for just a couple of days instead of two weeks.

I have managed to find this video showing the field gun crews.


Buck said...

Ah! I remember watching the field gun crews for the first time back in the early 80's and being mesmerized. I never saw the show in person, but I ALWAYS watched it on TV.

Sarah said...

I went to see the Highland games in Braemar once - 12 hours there and 12 hours back in a minibus full of sweaty tug-o-war competitors - it was a fantastic experience!