HMS Queen Elizabeth fires 96 guns to mark Queen’s death


Britain’s £3 billion aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth fired a 96-gun salute on Friday to mark the Queen’s death after shots were fired at Cardiff, Edinburgh and Hillsborough castles as well as in Gibraltar as news of the elderly monarch’s death was announced.

Photos provided by the Ministry of Defense taken from a Merlin Mk2 helicopter show 820 Naval Air Squadron firing the gun salute in tribute to the Queen, who was Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces as well as Head of State and Supreme Head of the Church of England.

Salutes were fired at five other ships, as well as sites including Cardiff Castle, Edinburgh Castle, Hillsborough Castle, York, Portsmouth and Gibraltar.

Similar cannon shots were fired to mark the deaths of Queen Victoria in 1901 and Britain’s wartime Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill in 1965.

MoD document aerial view of the 96-round salvo fired from a Merlin Mk2 helicopter of 820 Naval Air Squadron embarked aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth

Photos provided by the Ministry of Defense taken from a Merlin Mk2 helicopter show 820 Naval Air Squadron firing the gun salute in tribute to the Queen, who was Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces as well as Head of State and Supreme Head of the Church of England

Photos provided by the Ministry of Defense taken from a Merlin Mk2 helicopter show 820 Naval Air Squadron firing the gun salute in tribute to the Queen, who was Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces as well as Head of State and Supreme Head of the Church of England

Britain's £3 billion aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth fired a 96-gun salute to mark the Queen's death on Friday

Britain’s £3 billion aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth fired a 96-gun salute to mark the Queen’s death on Friday

Camilla, Charles and Queen Elizabeth II on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during Trooping The Color on June 2, 2022

Camilla, Charles and Queen Elizabeth II on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during Trooping The Color on June 2, 2022

The gun salute: how teams of horses fire guns before thunderous salutes to mark royal occasions – from births and deaths to the opening of Parliament

On special days, royal salutes are fired from various locations in London and across the UK. In London, salutes are taken from the Tower of London, as well as Hyde Park or Green Park, depending on the occasion.

The basic salute is 21 rounds, fired at ten second intervals, but in Hyde Park an additional 20 rounds are fired because it is a royal park.

Teams of horses gallop through the park, firing six thirteen-pounder cannons at high speed over the grass. The cannons are quickly detached and, on command, fire blank bullets that resonate through the ground, sending a puff of white smoke into the air.

In the parks, the King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery fires the salute, the first shot usually being fired at noon. The Salute to the Tower of London is fired from four twenty-five pound guns situated on Tower Wharf facing the River Thames, by the Honorable Artillery Company at 1 p.m.

When are the shots fired?

Gun salutes are fired to mark various occasions, including:

  • Membership Day – February 6
  • Queen’s Birthday – April 21
  • Coronation Day – June 2
  • The Queen’s official birthday – a Saturday in June
  • The Prince of Wales’ birthday – November 14
  • The official opening of Parliament – usually in November or December
  • Prorogation of Parliament
  • Royal births, for example for Prince George and Princess Charlotte
  • Meeting of a visiting Head of State and the Sovereign in London, Windsor or Edinburgh

Gun salutes are usually fired, both on land and at sea, as a sign of respect or welcome. Today, gun salutes mark special occasions on certain days of the year, many with royal associations.

Canon salutes take place on royal anniversaries including Accession Day, the Monarch’s Birthday, Coronation Day, the Monarch’s Official Birthday, the Official Opening of Parliament, Royal Births and when a visiting head of state meets the monarch in London, Windsor or Edinburgh.

The Ministry of Defense said the tradition of gun salutes was regularly fired across the country to mark significant national events dating back centuries, and there were historical records of salutes taking place as early as the 14th century when firearms and ammunition began to be widely adopted.

At 1 p.m. Friday, the Death Gun Salute was fired at 1 p.m. Friday in London, as well as other locations across the UK and at salute stations domestically and abroad. One shot was fired every 10 seconds, with 96 shots representing one shot for each year of the queen’s life.

In London, the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery fired the Death Gun Salute in Hyde Park, while at the same time the Death Gun Salute was fired at the Tower of London by the Honorable Artillery Company (HAC).

Some 71 horses rode into Hyde Park, 36 of which fired six First World War-era 13-pounder field guns.

The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery is a mounted ceremonial unit of the British Army which fires royal salutes on royal anniversaries and state occasions, such as state visits and royal birthdays.

The HAC dates back to 1537, making it the oldest regiment in the British Army. He took over the role of firing gun salutes from the Tower of London in 1924.

Major Matt Aldridge, Battery Commander, Honorable Artillery Company, said: ‘It has been an honor and a privilege for the Honorable Artillery Company to have played our part in commemorating the life of Her Majesty The Queen, our Captain general. In this time of national mourning, our thoughts are with the Royal Family.

It comes as the Chief of the Defense Staff said the Queen ‘understands better than most the burdens and the glory of life in uniform’.

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin said service personnel “must perform their last duty to a beloved sovereign” in the coming days, adding: “We do so with admiration and gratitude.”

In a statement posted on the Ministry of Defense Twitter page on Thursday evening, he said: “On behalf of our Armed Forces, I would like to express our condolences to His Majesty the King and the Royal Family.”

“The relationship between the Queen and the armed forces was deeply personal. Through her own service in World War II and as the wife, mother and grandmother of military personnel, the Queen understood better than anyone the burdens and glory of life in uniform.

The Death Gun Salute is fired at the Tower of London by the Honorable Artillery Company

The Death Gun Salute is fired at the Tower of London by the Honorable Artillery Company

The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery prepares to fire a 96-gun salute at 1 p.m. in Hyde Park

The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery prepares to fire a 96-gun salute at 1 p.m. in Hyde Park

The 105th Regiment Royal Artillery, Scottish and Ulster Gunners fire a 96-gun salute at 1 p.m. in tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II at Edinburgh Castle

The 105th Regiment Royal Artillery, Scottish and Ulster Gunners fire a 96-gun salute at 1 p.m. in tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II at Edinburgh Castle

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace watches the Death Gun Salute fired at the Tower of London alongside Admiral Sir Antony David Radakin, a senior Royal Navy officer

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace watches the Death Gun Salute fired at the Tower of London alongside Admiral Sir Antony David Radakin, a senior Royal Navy officer

The Death Gun Salute is fired at the Tower of London by the Honorable Artillery Company

The Death Gun Salute is fired at the Tower of London by the Honorable Artillery Company

“In the coming days, our sailors, soldiers and airmen must perform their last duty to a much-loved sovereign. We do so with admiration and gratitude. For those of us who are privileged to now wear the King’s uniform, there is no greater honor than to serve our crown and our country.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston also paid tribute to the Queen, saying she was a ‘pillar of strength to all who have had the privilege of serving her’.

In a statement posted on his official Twitter page, he said: “It is with immense sadness that the Royal Air Force and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force mourn the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

“During her long and glorious reign, she was the embodiment of a life devoted to service to the nation and the Commonwealth, and for this was admired by millions around the world.

“Her Majesty, as head of the Armed Forces, has been a constant source of inspiration and a pillar of strength to all who have had the privilege of serving her. Those who have had the honor of meeting Her Majesty do not will never forget their interaction and the deep sense of pride they felt in that moment.

“On behalf of all members of the Royal Air Force, serving, retired and their families, I offer our deepest condolences to His Majesty the King and the Royal Family.”

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