If you were by the Tower of London today, your ears might have rung with the Boom Boom Boom Boom of the Queen’s Birthday Salute by the Honourable Artillery Company by the banks of the Thames.

62 Booms in fact – 21 for a Royal Anniversary, plus a further 20 because the Tower is a Royal Palace and Fortress, plus another 21 ‘for the City of London’.

Gun Salute - 4

I tried to get close to the action, but was thwarted by a large crowd, and hopes to get onto the pier right in front of the guns was denied on the grounds that already poor hearing would probably cease to function altogether had I stood that close to the guns without protection.

So I ended up on Tower Bridge and wishing my camera had a better zoom to capture the boom.

Fortunately though, from that angle, I could just about make out the raising and dropping of a white gloved covered hand by each gun commander, so could set the camera to take a dozen photos just as the boom rang out over London. And two just about caught the red lick of flame that comes out of the cannons.

Gun Salute - 2

I think I’ll try Hyde Park next time as I suspect that might offer more space to get up closer to the action.

The Tower of London though is thought to hold the record for the most rounds fired in a single salute: 124 are fired when The Queen’s Official Birthday (62 rounds), which takes place on the 2nd Saturday in June coincides with The Duke of Edinburgh’s birthday (also 62 rounds) on the 10 June.

Sadly, the next time that will happen is in 2017 – so put that in your electronic diaries, and hope they (and you) are still around at the time.

Gun Salute - 3

As noted above, the HAC carry out the gun salutes at the Tower, as they are the City of London’s territorial Army division. They also hold an annual open evening with military displays each year. This year will be on Tuesday 17th May, and has always an enjoyable night out.

Gun Salute - 3

With apologies to Blackadder goes Fourth for the blog post title.


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  1. Iain Dunross says:

    A couple of corrections from someone who has been a gun No. 1 at a few gun salutes at the Tower:-

    (i) the guns are not cannons, they are field guns (i.e. artillery pieces) – more specifically the Light Gun L119
    (ii) the HAC is not the City of Londons TA ‘division’ – although there are strong links with the Lord Mayor and the City Police. The HAC do gun salutes at the Tower as they volunteered to do so in about 1924 ( if my memory is correct ) when due to cost cutting, the regular army gunners at the Tower were withdrawn.

    Nice article though !

  2. Iain Dunross says:

    L118, not L119. Zut alors ! I got it wrong.

  3. Beth says:

    I was playing truant from work today and accidentally ended up in Hyde Park in time for the gun salute there. It was great, not very busy at all, so next time you should definitely be able to get closer. The only vague Health & Safety consideration was a sad little rope fence with just a single strand of rope closing off the section of the park they were using. There was some exitement too, as two horses threw their riders (they were okay, I think) and then bolted back towards the end of the park, with their silver swords and other metal bits & bobs flashing prettily in the sunlight.

  4. Lionheart says:

    I was on the other side of the river at ‘The Scoop’ outside City Hall when the guns started. I don’t think the school jazz swing band, who were playing at the time, were too pleased to be accompanied by 62 booms. 🙂
    Some of the audience left their seats to investigate too.

  5. Steve says:

    I was in that large crowd at tower bridge. I got there half an hour before hand and not many people were there. 15 minutes later I looked behind me and was surrounded by 100 plus people. I felt sorry for the poor police who had to answer the same question time and time again as to why they couldn’t walk past the cordon. All in all a good display with a lot of ceremony before and after.

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