Royal birthday celebration goes off with a bang

A row of green guns on wheels being fired by soldiers in ceremonial uniform
The 21-gun salute was fired by 105mm guns at noon [Stephen Huntley/BBC]

An Essex town has celebrated the birthday of King Charles III with a 21-gun salute.

Soldiers from 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery (RHA) carried out the tribute at noon at Lower Castle Park in Colchester.

They were joined by a brass ensemble from the British Army Band Colchester, who entertained the crowd.

The soldiers were inspected by the Lord Lieutenant of Essex during the event.

Two army vehicles, one with a soldier saluting, pass by the saluting dais
The crowd at Lower Castle Park saw the troops and vehicles being inspected [BBC]

At noon, the salute began with a cry of "Number one, fire!".

Four guns were used to fire 21 rounds in the traditional military tribute, which stems from the days when warships fired their cannons out to sea until all ammunition was used up, to show they were not hostile.

The weapons were 105mm light guns, which can be used in operations across the world at a moment's notice.

They belonged to G Parachute Battery (Mercer's Troops), a close support battery of the 7th Parachute Regiment RHA based at Merville Barracks in Colchester.

Sam Hayes with purple army beret and brown and green ceremonial uniform
Gunner Sam Hayes was taking part in his first 21-gun salute [Stephen Huntley/BBC]

The battery was formed in 1801 and has seen recent action in Afghanistan.

Gunner Sam Hayes, who joined the battery in February, was taking part in his first 21-gun salute.

He said it was different from ordinary operations because "you've got a crowd in front of you, you've got to make sure your drill's on point, and make sure you don't mess up or get caught messing up".

He added: "It's really nice for us to be here today, firing our guns and saying 'happy birthday' in the only way we know."

Jennifer Tolhurst in Lord Lieutenant's uniform inspecting troops in ceremonial uniform
The troops were inspected by the Lord Lieutenant, Jennifer Tolhurst [Stephen Huntley/BBC]

The troops were inspected by the King's representative in Essex, the Lord Lieutenant, Jennifer Tolhurst.

Mrs Tolhurst was no stranger to military ceremonies, as her father was in the Army and she was educated at a series of military schools.

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