New Zealand’s 40-strong marching party has been rehearsing at Pirbright Army Training Centre in Surrey for Sunday’s Platinum Jubilee Pageant in London, which is expected to draw tens of thousands and attract a television audience of up to one billion.
They NZ contingent will be marching among Commonwealth military representatives and will stand out as the largest of the Commonwealth parties and also being led by a six-strong taua, or warrior party.
An early-morning dress rehearsal – around 4am on the quiet streets – was held around The Mall and Buckingham Palace earlier in the week to familiarise them with the route.
The Pageant will conclude the four-day festivities to mark the Queen’s 70 year reign.
Contingent drill instructor, Chief Petty Officer Shane Dixon, originally from Napier, said that “gave us a sense of occasion. Of course missing the crowd that’s going to be there on the day”.
“There were some issues with the band and the music… when the crowd is there cheering it might be difficult to hear the beat of the bass drum.
“But things are coming along. We are improving with every rehearsal.”
Second Lieutenant Elese Russell, from Whangarei, will be the contingent flag-bearer and was presented with the NZDF’s Nga Tapuwae Kahu Huruhuru cloak at Devonport Naval Base before the group left New Zealand.
The enormity of the occasion was now becoming apparent, especially after the London rehearsal.
“I think the Queen’s Jubilee is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I feel honoured to carry my country’s flag at such a special event,” she said.
“She has broken so many records due to the length of her service. I think it’s pretty remarkable for her to dedicate her life to service since the age of 21. I’m sure she’ll hold the record for the longest British monarch for a long time, so the Queen’s Jubilee celebration really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for this generation.
Commander Kerry Tutty, the contingent commander, acknowledged there would be pressure on the NZDF as one of the largest Commonwealth contingents but was confident they would be properly prepared.
“I am looking forward to taking in the atmosphere of this incredible milestone. I’m most excited for the world to see our diverse ceremonial demonstration of who we are as Aotearoa New Zealand.”