A THUNDERING 21 gun salute was fired at Fort Blockhouse in Gosport today to mark 60 years since the Queen came to the throne.
Royal Navy gunners fired the 19th century saluting gun at noon to commemorate the anniversary of King George VI’s death.
The tribute came as Queen Elizabeth II released a message to the nation in which the 85-year-old monarch declared: ‘I dedicate myself anew to your service.’
On February 6, 1952, King George VI died in his sleep at Sandringham aged 56. Princess Elizabeth was informed of her father’s death while on holiday at the Royal hunting lodge in Kenya, taking the throne at 25 years old.
In a statement from Buckingham Palace this morning, Her Majesty said: ‘Today, as I mark 60 years as your Queen, I am writing to thank you for the wonderful support and encouragement that you have given to me and Prince Philip over these years and to tell you how deeply moved we have been to receive so many kind messages about the Diamond Jubilee.
‘In this special year, as I dedicate myself anew to your service, I hope we will all be reminded of the power of togetherness and the convening strength of family, friendship and good neighbourliness, examples of which I have been fortunate to see throughout my reign and which my family and I look forward to seeing in many forms as we travel throughout the United Kingdom and the wider Commonwealth.
‘I hope also that this Jubilee year will be a time to give thanks for the great advances that have been made since 1952 and to look forward to the future with clear head and warm heart as we join together in our celebrations. I send my sincere good wishes to you all.’
Around 100 people watched the gun salute at the entrance of Portsmouth Harbour from across the water at the Round Tower, Old Portsmouth.
Carolyn Tannock, 61, and her husband Jonathan, 61, travelled from their home in Portchester to see the display.
‘It was very impressive,’ said Carolyn, who added: ‘It’s a special day. It’s a great achievement to reign for 60 years.’
Jenny Bettey, 66, of Clarence Parade, Southsea, watched the gun salute with her husband Arthur.
She said: ‘It was a lovely thing to do. I think the Queen is amazing. When people go on about Diana or Kate Middleton they forget the Queen was just 25 when she ascended the throne and she has never put a foot wrong. She is an inspiration, she is wonderful.’
As well as the gun salute, all warships in Portsmouth Naval Base are dressed overall in colourful flags to mark Accession Day.
HMS Warrior and HMS Victory have also been dressed for the occasion at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
Jacquie Shaw, who is head of communications and operations at the attraction, said: ‘Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is proud to be joining with the Royal Navy in marking this 60th anniversary year of the Queen’s accession to the throne, as we build towards the celebrations of the Diamond Jubilee.
‘We pride ourselves on being an important part of Britain’s cultural heritage and we are sure our visitors and supporters will be interested to see that we still honour important dates in a traditional manner.’
The country is set to officially celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee over an extended Bank Holiday weekend from June 2 to June 5 this year.
But today is the true date of when she came to the throne, prompting the navy to fire its gun salute in Portsmouth.
The custom dates back to the early days of sail when ships visiting foreign ports would discharge their guns before entering to prove they were empty and that the visit was peaceful.
The portable 19th century gun at Fort Blockhouse has been firing salutes since it was acquired by the navy in 1957 - just five years after Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne.