Twas the before Christmas at HMS Drake

A little something for Christmas Eve courtesy of the “Senior Service”.

Merry Christmas to you all and please spare a thought or prayer for our service personnel spending tomorrow on duty away from home, across the globe.

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The First Changing of the Queen’s Guard by the Royal Navy at Buckingham Palace

Royal Navy sailors have performed the Changing of the Guard outside Buckingham Palace for the first time in the ceremony’s 357-year history. Eighty-six sailors from 45 Royal Navy ships and establishments spent a month preparing ahead of the first ceremony on Sunday morning.

Representing many branches of the Royal Navy, the Senior Service’s traditional navy blue uniforms have replaced for a short period, the distinctive red tunics worn by the Foot Guards. Starting at Buckingham Palace in full show of the general public, they are also set to Mount Royal Guards at Windsor Castle, The Tower of London and St James’s Palace over the next few weeks.

“The last time the Navy had an operational role guarding the Queen was with Elizabeth the first, when Sir Walter Raleigh was appointed Captain of the Queen’s Guard in 1587,” said Captain of the Queen’s Guard, Lieutenant Commander Steve Elliot and Raleigh’s successor in the role. “So it goes back a little while.”

HMS Vanguard’s dramatic final departure, 1960

HMS Vanguard was not only the biggest, fastest and last of the Royal Navy’s battleships but she also had the distinction of being the last battleship ever launched when she was commissioned on May 12th 1946. Throughout her career, Vanguard usually served as the flagship for Royal Navy or NATO surface groups and in 1953 she participated in Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation Review. While undergoing refit in 1955, the Admiralty announced that the ship was going to be put into reserve and was finally sold for scrap in 1960. However, the ship would have one last defiant and almost catastrophic moment in her life before she was to go to the breaker’s yard.

On August 4th 1960, the sea front was packed with people who came to see the mighty ship off as she was to leave Portsmouth for Faslane, Scotland where she would be broken up. As the last battleship was being towed towards the harbour entrance however, she slid across the harbour and ran aground near the Still & West pub. It would take an hour and the effort of five tugboats to pull her off again and lead her out to sea for her final journey north.