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The Royal Tournament was the World's largest military tattoo and pageant, held by the British Armed Forces annually between 1880 and 1999. The venue was originally the Royal Agricultural Hall and latterly the Earls Court Exhibition Centre. In its later years it also acted as a fundraising event for leading forces charities, such as The Royal British Legion.

File:Royal tournament.jpg

Massed Bands in Earls Court

History[edit | edit source]

The Grand Military Tournament and Assault at Arms was held at the former Royal Agricultural Hall, in Islington from 21 to 26 June 1880. The Tournament was effectively a series of competitions contested by the officers and men of the regular and auxiliary units of the British Army. Although crowds didn’t flock to the Tournament in the first year, it was held again in 1881 and subsequent years.

More events to please audiences were added, including music from military bands, re-enactments, Musical Rides by the Cavalry and Musical Drives by the Artillery. Crowds began to flock to performances at the Agricultural hall; during the early 1900s the show outgrew its home and moved to the west London venue of Olympia. The Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force also participated. The show was renamed a number of times until it finally became the Royal Tournament.

Post World War 2[edit | edit source]

After the Second World War, the Tournament once again moved to a larger stage and opened its doors to the public at the Earls Court Exhibition Centre in 1950. With the exception of the war years, the Tournament was staged every summer from 1880 to 1999. The Royal Tournament had entered the history books as the First, Oldest and Biggest Military Tattoo in the World. Towards the end ticket sales were insufficient to cover costs; the 1998 Royal Tournament made a loss. On Monday 2 August 1999 the Royal Tournament closed for the final time to reduce military costs, following the 1998 Strategic Defence Review. Other military events such as Trooping the Colour, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the Windsor Castle Royal Tattoo and Royal International Air Tattoo remain an active part of British military pageantry as of 2009, together with the various events organized by the Armed Forces and its three branches.

Comeback as the British Military Tournament[edit | edit source]

In June 2010, ABF - The Soldiers' Charity announced that a new event, to be called the British Military Tournament, would be held over the weekend of 4–5 December 2010, bringing together the "best elements of the Royal Tournament", including the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery's Musical Drive, and the Royal Navy Field gun competition. The two themes of the event as announced were the 350th anniversary of the Household Cavalry, and the 150th anniversary of both the Army Physical Training Corps and the cadet movement.[1] Initially, the event will feature the Army, with no Royal Navy or RAF presence (beyond the old staples such as the Field Gun competition) but, according to reports in the press, it will become an annual fixture, suggesting that it may revive the old Royal Tournament practice of each service "hosting" the event for a year.[2]

On TV[edit | edit source]

The Royal Tournament was a regular feature on BBC TV in the summer schedule.

The Royal Tournament 1970 was shown on BBC1 on Saturday 25 July and was billed as a second visit to Earl's Court for that year's spectacular and featured
The Musical Drive by The Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery
The White Helmets display by the Royal Signals Motor Cycle Team
Continuity Drill by The Queen's Colour Squadron of The Royal Air Force
Massed Band and Bugles of the Light Division
The Royal Corps of Signals in the Bandstand
with commentator Geoffrey Wheeler

There was a special article in The Radio Times that week on "The White Helmets" - mentioning Sgt George Garside and Signalman Mick Hanson.

The Royal Tournament 1972 was shown on BBC1 on Sunday 16 July and featured
The Musical Drive by The King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery,
The Field Gun Competition by The Royal Navy,
National Dances by the Singapore Armed Forces,
Commando Assault Course by The Royal Marines 42 Commando,
Continuity Drill by The Queen's Colour Squadron,
Royal Air Force in the Bandstand,
The Staff Band of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers,
with commentator Michael Charlton.

The Royal Tournament 1974 was shown on BBC1 on Saturday 13 July and featured
The Musical Drive by the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery
The Field Gun Competition by The Royal Navy,
Continuity Drill by the RAF Queen's Colour Squadron
National Dancing and Music by the Sri Lanka Police Reserve
Massed Bands of the Royal Marines
The Band of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in the Bandstand
with commentator Tom Fleming

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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