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● HMS Kent’s sailors salute the Swedish royal couple in Stockholm Picture: LA(Phot) Dean Nixon, FRPU East

Bands in the sun

A FIREWORKS fi nale (pictured here by RN Photographer of the Year LA(Phot) Keith Morgan) brings the curtain down on the fi rst evening of the South Coast Proms – one of two high-profi le musical events staged in Portsmouth this past month. Some 8,000 people enjoyed two nights of first-class entertainment courtesy of the Massed Bands of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines on Whale Island as Portsmouth Festivities, an annual celebration of the arts, came to an end. The audience were among the first people to hear a new composition by the Royal Marines, Wootton Bassett. The five-minute piece was written by Maj Pete Curtis to commemorate the Wiltshire town which comes to a halt to pay its respects when Britain’s fallen are flown home from Afghanistan.

recreate the drone of the C17 Globemaster aircraft which fly bodies into nearby RAF Lyneham. Meanwhile in the city’s Guildhall Square... Nine bands from establishments across the RN/RM converged on Portsmouth for the annual Volunteer Bands festival.

As well as the sound of church bells, the march attempts to Swede talking Kent

TWO Royal couples, one Defence Secretary, 150 VIPs, 3,000 members of the public – just a typical fortnight in

And it was the amateur musicians of HMS Heron who were triumphant, lifting four trophies – including best band – after a day of performances inside and outside Pompey’s landmark Guildhall.

The contest opened in glorious sunshine in Guildhall Square with the marching section of the contest, and continued in the afternoon with a 15-minute concert performance by each of the competing bands. HMS Heron band (pictured below by LA(Phot) Kaz Williams during the marching demonstration) was awarded the Bambara Trophy for the best Fleet Air Arm band; the Willis Trophy for the best marching display; the Richard Johns Memorial Trophy for the concert band placed second and the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the best overall band. “I am the proudest bandmaster in the world at the moment and privileged to conduct the best band in the Royal Navy,” said Heron’s instructor, a beaming Band C/Sgt Johnny Morrish. “The band worked extremely hard over the last few months with lots of late evening rehearsals.

“They have done themselves proud and I am really pleased they have something to show for all their hard work.”

Sweden for a Royal wedding and celebration of links with the UK, then moved to Cardiff as the RN’s very visible presence in the national event celebrating Armed Forces Day. To Sweden first and the port of Gothenburg and the three-day Think

heiress to the throne, Crown Princess Victoria, and personal trainer/gym owner Daniel Westling.

the life of HMS Kent. The frigate carried out a whistlestop European tour which took in

Britain... which encourages Swedes to, er, think about Britain – be it industry, education, literature, tourism, even golf. It was HMS Kent’s presence which was – in the words of Andrew Mitchell, Britain’s Ambassador to Sweden – “the jewel in the crown” of festivities.

birthday as well as an official dinner for VIPs, headed by Commander-in-Chief Fleet Admiral Sir Trevor Soar. Ashore there was the solemn rededication of a monument to one of the forgotten episodes of RN history. Britain has close ties with Sweden going back more than two

The ship hosted an official reception to celebrate the Queen’s

warships and the royal yachts of Norway and Denmark. Rowing between the vessels was the royal barge, carrying the

newlyweds around the harbour and back to the royal palace. As it passed HMS Kent, the sailors – in time-honoured tradition – cheered ship. The Swedes were not the only royal couple to see Kent; the ship hosted the Earl and Countess of Wessex, who were attending the wedding on behalf of the Queen. The Wessexes met members of the ship’s company and used the

Kent could be found in the Strommen Channel with Swedish

frigate as the backdrop for a medal presentation; Swede Dan Stan Olsson was made an honorary CBE for his services promoting trade between Britain and his native land. “I’m proud to have been part of such a special occasion – I never expected I’d do anything like this when I joined the Navy,” said AB ‘Meg’ Ryan. “It’s the first time I’ve met anyone from the royal family – they

centuries – thanks not least to the Royal Navy. At the height of the Napoleonic Wars, Britain’s Baltic Fleet helped protect Sweden from invasion, led by the great Admiral Sir James Saumarez. A memorial to the admiral can be found outside the city hall. It

“Everything seemed to come together very nicely before the festival and I had a great feeling in the week leading up to the competition.

was defaced a couple of years ago, but has since been restored and was rededicated in style in the presence of British and Swedish sailors, who also paraded through the city’s streets, while Kent fired a 19-gun salute in honour. On the business front, Admiral Soar sat down with Swedish naval

leaders to discuss military cooperation between the two countries. Now several paragraphs ago we mentioned golf. Eleven men of Kent took their woods, irons and putters to St Jorgen course for an Anglo-Swedish competition. Prizes included another chance to play the Swedish fairways, or a round at the famous Celtic Manor course in Wales... which is hosting this year’s Ryder Cup. Upon leaving Gothenburg, the Type 23 made for the Swedish capital

– but there was more honouring the fallen of the Napoleonic era on the way to Stockholm, first at Laholm, 90 miles south of Gothenburg, then on the rather austere island of Hanö in the Bay of Hanö (on Sweden’s southern Baltic coast). The latter served as the base for the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic

era. During two years’ operations on Hanö, 15 British sailors died; they were laid to rest in the English Seaman’s Graveyard. It was another 150 years before a large wooden cross was erected in the cemetery – and it was there that Kent’s sailors, led by their CO, paid their respects, heading ashore to lay a wreath before being invited to a reception in the town hall.

And so to Stockholm and the society event of the year in these parts: a royal wedding.

More than half a million Swedes poured on to the streets of the Venice of the North to witness celebrations surrounding the marriage of the

“This gives us a tremendous opportunity to open ourselves up and perhaps help the understanding of what we do.” Over the weekend, the ship was open to visitors from the public; in excess of 3,000 crossed the gangway to gather a taste of life onboard. The ship’s now resuming more typical RN duties, hosting a class of student principal warfare officers. ■ You can watch a four-minute BBC News report on life aboard Kent at

event for Armed Forces Day 2010, dwarfing stands by the junior Services (quite right – Ed). Before arriving in Cardiff, the ship hosted BBC News reporter Colette Hume and her cameraman/producer Tim Jones who wanted to experience 24 hours in the life of a Royal Navy warship, capturing everything on board from call the hands at 7am to Sunset at the day’s end. Events alongside continued with a reception and capability demonstration for more than 150 VIPs. The finale of the evening was Beat Retreat and Ceremonial Sunset on the Type 23’s flight deck with a Royal Marines Band and 12-man guard, led by Lt Jo Chambers. On Armed Forces Day itself – one of the hottest days of the summer – there were numerous live TV broadcasts from Kent, while a 48-man platoon marched proudly through the city next to serving men and women from the other Armed Forces (pictured below by PO(Phot) Mez Merrill), plus veterans and cadets, led by HRH Prince of Wales. “There are fewer people in the Armed Forces than ever before which means fewer people in the general public will know someone in the armed forces,” Kent’s CO Cdr Nick Cooke-Priest said of Armed Forces Day.

Quay – slap bang in the heart of the Welsh capital. Kent was by some distance the largest attendee at the national

were really interested in what the ship had been doing.” Blimey, we managed to get through an article about Sweden without mentioning Abba, Ikea and The Muppets chef... And so on to Cardiff and a weekend alongside at Britannia

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