As the Queen’s celebratory River Pageant sails down the Thames on Sunday, two Royal Naval Reservists from HMS Vivid in Plymouth were part of a select group of only 20 sailors waiting to welcome the Queen as she disembarked from the Royal Barge, the Spirit of Chartwell, and into HMS President, the London home of the Royal Naval Reserves (RNR) Part of the Royal Honorary Guard, Able Seaman Martin Whitehouse (25), from Plymouth, and Able Seaman Sharon Sandel (39), from Plymouth, marched out onto the dock with 18 colleagues from around the UK to salute the Queen as she’s piped ‘on board’ HMS President, from where she was able to watch the flotilla pass by.
Queen Elizabeth was joined at HMS President by her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and other members of the royal family. The arrival of the royal family was also be marked with a specially-composed fanfare from the Royal Marine’s Band and the first official flying of the RNR Sovereign’s Colour which was presented to the RNR in 2003 in recognition of its contribution to the Fleet and Nation.
Commenting on the experience, Whitehouse, who has only been in the RNR for just over 18 months, said: “It was a fantastic opportunity to play a role in such an important and historic day. I volunteered a little while ago to be involved in the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in some way, but had no idea that I’d be saluting the Queen herself and have such an amazing front row seat for the pageant! It’s an incredible honour to be involved in something like this.”
Ahead of the Jubilee weekend, Whitehouse and Sandel undertook a two-week intensive training course at HMS Collingwood in Hampshire. They were coached by the Royal Navy’s State Ceremonial Training team to make sure that every movement made by the Royal Honorary Guard was perfectly synchronised and timed to perfection.
“We were all nervous but also incredibly excited,” added Sandel, who has served in the RNR for 14 years, “but our training was so thorough we felt confident that it will all go according to plan! I feel very proud to have been in the Guard, it was a real once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’ll never forget it.”