King’s Troop: A modern history of 1945 to 2012

At the end of the war in Europe in 1945, King George VI expressed the wish that a horse-drawn battery might be stationed again in London for ceremonial duties – which he hoped might be performed in the traditional manner.

Thus, early in 1946 the War Office issued instructions that the Riding Troop Royal Horse Artillery should be formed on April 17.

The troop moved to St John’s Wood from Shoeburyness on May 15, 1946 and on June 13 fired their first Royal Salute in Hyde Park.

When the Riding Troop arrived at the Wood, the barracks was, not surprisingly perhaps, in a state of wartime disrepair. There was much to do.

The first post-war salute was duly completed on June 13 and thereafter the troop began consolidating their new skills.

In early 1947 they began training for the famous musical drive. The first performance took place to much acclaim at Aldershot on July 26.

On October 24 that year the troop was honoured with a visit from the King, when he inspected the troop in full ceremonial order.

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He then retired to the officers’ mess where, upon signing the visitors’ book, he crossed out the word “Riding” and substituted “King’s” – thus making the troop “his”.

Later in recognition of her father’s special interest in the troop, the Queen graciously allowed the title to remain during her reign.

On the death of the King on February 6, 1952, the troop had the very sad task of providing the gun carriage that carried his body from Sandringham House to Wolferton Station, and, on arrival in London, from King’s Cross, to Westminster Hall.

The reputation of the “new” King’s Troop continued to flourish during the following years and in 1964 for the first time in their history they performed the musical drive abroad, at a British Trade week in Copenhagen.

Since then they have performed their unique display all over Britain and Europe, as well as in Canada and the United States.

Between 1969 and 1972 the troop was accommodated with the Household Cavalry armoured regiment at Windsor while St John’s Wood barracks was rebuilt.

The troop marched back into the new St John’s Wood barracks on April 17, 1972.

During the past 40 years they have continued to enhance their reputation both at home and abroad in a variety of displays and competitions.

They have also been at the forefront of State ceremonial and, since 1973, performing the once unfamiliar duties of Queen’s Life Guard at Whitehall each year.

More recently they have been at the heart of national events including the funeral of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002.

The troop has also cultivated strong ties with the local community in and around the borough and apart from their normal morning exercise routine around the streets there have been many open days where residents have been able to see the troop at home.

For the past 20 years there has also been the famous Christmas ride around the streets of St John’s Wood, which has been much enjoyed by soldiers, horses and residents alike.

The departure of troop indeed be a sad affair for both the army and the local population.