The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee has passed in a wave of celebrations. The one I was able to get to see took place in a damp mist on the parade ground at Connaught Barracks, high above Dover.
The blustery conditions were not ideal for spectators and far from perfect for the parachute display team, the Tigers, who opened the Dover Military Tattoo. They were from the local Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment and tasked with delivering the tattoo jubilee flag.
We saw the team leave the circling aeroplane and then, in moments, they were in front of us, landing hard with their legs taking the impact as they braked and banked against the wind, some only just managing to tumble to a halt within feet of the railings.
They stowed their collapsed chutes quickly and were rushing to clear the arena when they realised what the crowd had already seen – that one of the team was lying motionless on the tarmac.
The twenty or so minutes that followed were a dose of reality as we watched the St John’s Ambulance crew work to stabilise the fallen man before lifting him into the back of the ambulance and off the parade ground.
The programme then re-started as the crowd took in what it had just seen. Massed bands and an immaculate, white-gloved rifle drill display by around 40 teenage boys from Tonbridge School put the evening’s performance back on track.
The band of the Brigade of Gurkhas and the pipes and drums of the 1st Battalion the Royal Gurkha Rifles lifted the mood again. They marched into the shadowy arena in dark tartan capes and filled the night with music and emotion.
The last group before the finale were the White Helmets, the motorcycle display team of the Royal Signals. Each of their stunts shook us between disbelief and alarm. Tension was especially high on the lowest level of seats along the arena end where the corners pitched gravity against balance, testing the skill of the precarious pyramids and the backward-facing, or ladder-climbing, riders who all approached at speed. The sliding crash into the railings of a bike, ladder and rider added real moneys-worth to the evening.
Fireworks closed the Dover Tattoo 2012 – a memorable, military end-of-day performance. It had delivered precision, daring and consequences … and enough music to send the Duke of York over the Himalayas and back.
Best wishes to the injured Tiger.