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Gun salute starts British Queen's Diamond Jubilee

(Xinhua)

10:00, February 07, 2012

LONDON, Feb. 6 (Xinhua) -- The official start of Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee year was marked at noon on Monday with a 41-gun salute in central London's Hyde Park.

Several thousand spectators and hundreds of journalists from across the world turned out in Hyde Park to see six horse-drawn gun teams and 100 members of the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery fire 41 rounds to mark the 60th anniversary of the Queen coming to the throne.

The ceremonial event also marked a poignant moment for the soldiers and horses of the unit, which is changing its home from the barracks in north west London where it has been for decades to a new home, in the London Olympics venue of Woolwich Barracks.

The move is expected to save money for the cash-strapped British military budget.

The officer in charge of the King's Troop, Major Mark Edward, told Xinhua, "We are hugely privileged as the saluting battery to Her Majesty's Household that we have had the honor to fire a 41-gun royal salute to mark this occasion."

The guns are now antiques. They are 13 pounder quick-firing guns, which are drawn by horses. All of them saw action in the First World War, more than 94 years ago, and have been retained for ceremonial purposes ever since.

Major Edward explained, "The 13 pounder, quick fire gun was the de facto weapon of the Royal Horse Artillery during the First World War. All of the Royal Horse Artillery units would have used it."

Some of the soldiers in the saluting battery had recently been in action in the continuing war in Afghanistan.

"Everyone in the King's Troop is trained as a soldier first and foremost," said Major Edward.

For him this is the first Accession Day gun-salute as the unit's commanding officer, and he was looking forward to an extensive list of other ceremonial gun salutes in the coming 12 months.

"We are traditional country and its important we reflect national anniversaries and other tradition of state. There are events throughout the year. We fire on a number of royal anniversaries; April 21 for the Queen's birthday; June 2, for the anniversary of the coronation; June 10, for the Duke of Edinburgh's birthday; November 14, for the Prince of Wales's birthday," Major Edward added.

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