Take a look behind the scenes at armed forces Cenotaph rehearsals in Portsmouth

ARMED forces personnel have been making the final preparations ahead of the national remembrance service in London this weekend.

Personnel marching around HMS Excellent on Wednesday. Picture: LPhot Joe Cater
Personnel marching around HMS Excellent on Wednesday. Picture: LPhot Joe Cater

Members of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Coastguard, Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary have been training at HMS Excellent in Portsmouth, ahead of the Cenotaph parade.

The men and women will be parading through the streets of London on Sunday, accompanied by a full band.

Preparations have been tough, with those not cut out for the parade whittled away until only the best remain.

The sailors and marines stand to attention. Picture: LPhot Joe Cater

Naval Airman Adam Hurst, 30, says the rehearsal process has been physically and mentally demanding.

He said: ‘We’re up at 6am and don’t get back to HMS Collingwood until 5pm – then we’re doing kit maintenance, polishing our boots and so on.

‘If you so much as put your other hand on your rifle while carrying it, you’re out of the main group. Only perfection is acceptable.

‘It’s going to be an emotional day at the Cenotaph, but we’ll all have a strong sense of pride; I hope we do justice to the men who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

From left, Naval Airman Adam Hurst, Major Sam Hughes and Leading Air Technician James Morgan. Picture: David George

Major Sam Hughes from the Royal Marines 45 Commando has been serving for 14 years – but this is the first year he’s been called up to the Cenotaph parade.

The 37-year-old said: ‘The emotions here in Portsmouth will be just as strong as they will be in London, but the difference is that the eyes of the nation are on you.

‘We've done a lot of preparation drills to make sure we remember them with a flawless parade.

‘I did two tours of Afghanistan and lost some blokes while I was out there, so I’ll be remembering them as well as those who gave their lives in previous conflicts.’

Those taking part are trained under the watchful eye of WO1 Eddie Wearing, the Royal Navys state ceremonial training officer, and his team of instructors from HMS Collingwood in Fareham. Picture: LPhot Joe Cater

While personnel have been getting to grips with the procession rehearsals, musicians have also been making their preparations.

Trombonist Corporal Gwilym Davies, 32 from Portsmouth said: ‘The Cenotaph is a great experience.

‘It’s slightly different for musicians because this is literally our day job, but we've all been rehearsing together.

‘Remembrance means so much to people so we have to get it right.’