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Royal Albert Hall Festival of Remembrance

Article posted: Nov 15, 2012 by Sqn Ldr Mayoh-Smith

Emma White is a former CWO from 5F(Northampton) Sqn. On leaving the squadron she returned as a civilian instructor and has recently joined 606(Chiltern)Sqn RAuxAF. Here she gives her account of this year’s Festival of Remembrance from the Royal Albert Hall
Following on from my time in the ATC I decided to join the Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAuxAF) and am now a member of 606 (Chiltern) Sqn based within the Joint Helicopter Command (JHC) at RAF Benson. Throughout my time in the RAuxAF I have been offered many opportunities, above learning my basic trade, such as off road driving courses, force protection skills and adventure training. However, none have come close to the amazing opportunity I was offered recently to be a part of the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall and the Service at the cenotaph in London. As someone who has taken part in Remembrance services since the age of 5 to be part of the UK’s largest service and to be representing the RAuxAF and the RAF was such an honour.

In order to take part in the services everyone involved had to undertake a week of drill and ceremonial training at RAF Northolt lead by the Queens Colour Squadron (QCS). The week training was incredible in its self, as we were being taught by instructors from the world’s best drill display team. The week consisted mainly of perfecting how to march in time to music down stairs and how to form up correctly in the Royal Albert Hall (which they had painted on the drill square!) We also had to complete a lot of kit preparation with visits to the tailors and lots of bulling shoes, although it’s impossible to get your shoes as shiny as the QCS in just one week! We also had to learn how to carry out certain ceremonial drill movements such as the remove headdress and cheer for the Queen, as this was part of the service at the Royal Albert Hall.

All of the hard work was put into practice on the Friday when we went to the Royal Albert Hall for a rehearsal alongside all the other performers including; the Royal Marine Band, RAF Squadronaires, representatives from the Royal British Legion, the Royal Chelsea Pensioners as well as troops from the Navy, Army and other uniformed services. Exploring the backstage of the Royal Albert Hall was a brilliant experience and we even bumped into a few celebs (Huw Edwards and Cpt Heather Stanning, Olympic Gold Medallist). We also had the opportunity to see the show numerous times and from different angles.

When Saturday arrived everyone was buzzing with a mixture of excitement and nerves, we had a full dress rehearsal in the morning, then a performance to the public in the afternoon all leading up to the evening performance in front of the Queen and the Prime Minister. The performances went brilliantly with all of the rehearsals paying off. Despite my legs shaking like mad we managed to march down the stairs in step and to our position in the centre of the arena. The service was very moving with videos from family members of those who had lost their lives and memories from serving personnel, the service also included the ‘Last Post’ and a 2 minute silence in which poppies fell from the ceiling onto us.

I felt extremely proud to be representing and remembering a group of people whose bravery and courage has lead to our freedom and safety. After a very long and tiring day we headed back to RAF Northolt where we watched the televised show together along with the QCS, laughing at the few mistakes we made!