Halton hosts coronation parade practice

If you live within earshot of RAF Halton you may have noticed a lot more band music coming from there in the week leading up to the royal coronation in London on 6 May. Vital parts of the RAF’s preparation and practice for the coronation parades and security were taking place at the base. Bands and marching sections from all over the RAF were gathered at Halton, because its extensive roads and parade ground were large enough for all of them together to practice the precise movements and timings that would happen for real on the streets of London a few days later.

The coronation was the largest military ceremonial operation for 70 years and involved more than 9,000 service personnel, of which 6,000 were on ceremonial duties, 949 of them from the RAF. In addition to the ceremonial King’s Colour squadron and the Combined Bands of the RAF, regulars and reservists were selected through ballots to form the procession. There were also RAF service personnel on street duty alongside the crowds that watched the event.


The RAF, together with representatives of the other armed services, took part in the return procession ahead of King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla as they left Westminster Abbey and travelled in the gold State Coach. The route took them along Parliament Street, then Whitehall, then the south of Trafalgar Square, through Admiralty Arch, down The Mall to Buckingham Palace. The procession ended in the gardens to the rear of Buckingham Palace, where the King received the salute from representatives of all the United Kingdom and Commonwealth Armed Forces.


In the days leading up to the coronation, the RAF parade personnel all gathered together at Halton for joint practice, then travelled into London by train early on the big day. The RAF Regiment, the Combined Bands of the RAF, RAF Halton, the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, RAF College Cranwell and other RAF units took part. The station provided its own personnel to accompany RAF Halton’s Colour, as well as other parade personnel and drill instructors, totalling 96 officers and aviators from Halton.



Wendover News was invited with other press to watch one of the last full rehearsals at Halton on the Thursday prior to the event, where the bands and other sections marched around a route laid out to match the road sections, widths and turns of London.

Also practiced was the Presentation of the Colours ceremony, which took place in Buckingham Palace gardens. All seven flags of the service were there: the King’s Colour for the Royal Air Force in the UK; Number 1 School of Technical Training; the RAuxAF Sovereign’s Colour; RAFC Cranwell; RAF Halton; and the RAFV Regiment.

The School of Technical Training was originally based at RAF Halton until 1993, but is now residing at RAF Cosford. RAF Halton was presented with its new Queen’s Colour in 1997, following the transfer of its first Colour to RAF Cosford. Halton remains the only military station to be granted two Colours.

Today RAF Halton delivers basic recruit training for all non-commissioned aviators at the start of their career, and command, leadership and management training as they progress through the ranks. All recruit training was paused for two weeks to facilitate the preparation for 650 parade personnel and a further 150 support personnel.

Bad weather curtailed most of the planed RAF flypast: more than 60 aircraft had been anticipated, but low cloud and rain meant that only helicopters and the Red Arrows actually flew.

King Charles himself learned to fly with the RAF’s University Air Squadron at Cambridge, after which he attended RAF College Cranwell in 1971. He graduated later that year, receiving his RAF ‘wings’, before embarking on a career in the Royal Navy. His current roles include acting as Commander-in-Chief of the UK Armed Forces, Marshal of the Royal Air Force, and Honorary Air Commodore of RAF Valley in Anglesey.

Story and photographs: Simon Eccles