RAuxAF 100 – Royal Hillsborough Castle Gun Salute

On Monday 6th May, No. 206 (Ulster) Battery with support from No. 502 (Ulster) Sqn, Royal Auxiliary Air Force undertook a royal gun salute to mark the coronation of his Majesty King Charles III and the one hundredth anniversary of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force.

The event followed weeks of practice and preparation and was sure to be a very special day.

Just after 8am on Monday morning, the military contingent started to arrive at Hillsborough Castle, the royal residency in Northern Ireland, to begin this landmark occasion.

Officer Commanding 502 Sqn, Wing Commander Steve McCleery said “A year ago today, 25 members of the sqn were taking part in the Kings Coronation parade in London so it’s great that we can be a part of the celebrations a year later”.

VIP’s including Air Vice-Marshall Ranald Munro, Commandant General Royal Auxiliary Air Force and His Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant Mrs Alison Millar were in attendance to watch the event and later join the military contingent for lunch.

Also in attendance was Air Officer Northern Ireland, Air Marshal Sean Reynolds, he said: “I am honoured to be at Royal Hillsborough Castle to celebrate 100 years of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, where we will reflect on the proud record of our men and women who have served their country and celebrate those who continue to serve as part of 502 (Ulster) Sqn, the only RAF Reserve Sqn in Northern Ireland. I wish to offer special thanks to those service men and women for their dedication and inspiration today and as the Royal Air Force continue to face the challenges over the next 100 years”.

At precisely 12:00 the guns began to fire the 21-gun salute which was carried out by a team including 7 members of 502 sqn. Among them was Cpl James Anderson, who was taking part in his last major event before retiring from the RAF next month.

He said “I’m really proud to be involved in firing the guns, it’s a great event to be a part of and a fitting way to bring my service in the air force to a close”.

Following the Royal Gun Salute all eyes were drawn to the sky to see an RAF Typhoon, flown by Fight Lieutenant James Bell from RAF Lossiemouth carry out a fly-past.

The VIP’s and members of the public then watched as personnel from 502 Sqn marched onto the castle’s forecourt dressed in number one uniform and carrying rifles with bayonets fitted. It was an impressive sight and one that reflected on a brilliant day.A drill display was then performed by the Sqn’s Continuity Drill Team who are the only reservist drill display team in the RAF.

Parade on Review

It was led by Sgt Melody who said “The squad have worked so hard and shown a great commitment and effort to get to the level they are now. Being reservists, this is a fantastic achievement, with their day jobs and how busy life can be, it’s been a huge undertaking and is great to see”.  Onlookers were treated to an amazing rendition of Highland Cathedral and some other tunes by the newly reformed 502 Sqn Pipes and Drums. One of the people responsible for getting the band back together was Warrant Officer Stephen McGuinness, he said “It’s been a long year getting things in place, but it’s been a huge privilege to be able to reform after almost 70 years”.

All in all, the day was a huge success marking the coronation of his Majesty King Charles III and 100 years since the formation of The Royal Auxiliary Air Force.

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