RAF airbase turned into life-size replica of coronation procession

Over 7,000 ceremonial troops took part in a thrilling dress rehearsal today to ensure the Coronation’s military procession runs perfectly.

RAF Odiham airbase was ­transformed into a life-size replica of the parade route from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace.

And the gathering of militaray personnel in Hampshire was the largest since Winston Churchill’s funeral.

In total, 40 nations were represented – with neat grids of sailors, soldiers and aviators stretching across the base.

It also included personnel from the 34 Commonwealth countries and six overseas territories.

The head of the navy First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key said: “Putting it all together for the first time here, there’s a tinge of excitement.

“For us to have the opportunity and the privilege to play a small role in the Coronation of His Majesty and Her Majesty in just under a week’s time is a mixture of excited ­anticipation, probably a few nerves and great pride.

“The late Queen, like the King today, was an enormous supporter of the Armed Forces and what we do, and we see this being continued in him.

“We have enormous confidence in King Charles as our commander in chief and it’s a great opportunity for us to show our allegiance to him and I’m sure that his mother will look down with great pride on the day.

“I’m looking forward to joining up with my family who are hoping to be in the crowds in London enjoying
the atmosphere.

“No doubt I’ll then shed my uniform and pull on some incognito clothes to join in because it is a great national celebration.”

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At the shout of “Coronation, procession, by the centre, quick march!”, the procession got under way, with every troop planting their left foot to the beat of the bass drum.

Commonwealth troops headed the parading ­contingent, while the Household Cavalry took up the rear.

Officials were creative in how they recreated the route.

A pair of rugby posts played the part of Buckingham Palace, a set of cones replaced Admiralty Arch at the entrance to The Mall – enabling troops to split and reform as they will do on the day – while a brown minibus stood in for the royal gold state coach.

The procession route was mapped on to the airfield using a pace stick to ensure it is precisely the correct distance.

Meanwhile, mounted cavalry marched on foot to avoid so-called foreign object debris such as horseshoes or manure being left on the runway which could be a hazard to the aircraft taking off from the base.

One animal was invited to take part in proceedings – Irish wolfhound Seamus, left, who is the Irish Guards’ mascot and is the only dog taking part in the parade. Soldiers have spent weeks polishing the boots they will wear at the Coronation.

But they have been marching so much in rehearsals that they were permitted to wear more comfortable boots at the weekend to avoid developing blisters before the big day.

Some troops had been deployed in Kenya and Cyprus until only recently so have had little time to draw breath ahead of the Coronation build-up.

The event was the first and only full daytime practice for main event, although there will be a night rehearsal during the week.

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