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Towards the end of 2001 each squadron throughout Warwickshire and Birmingham Wing was asked to put forward a couple of people for a nomination to attend the Buckingham Palace Royal Garden Party in July 2002. I was one of about 3 people from my squadron who had been nominated. After not hearing anything about it for quite a long time I assumed that other squadrons had been given the allocations instead of anyone from our squadron. Then in March 2002 a letter came through to me that I had been one of 5 senior cadets to be selected to attend the Garden Party. It was quite an honour to be picked from the number of cadets nominated. As time went by a number of letters came with details regarding the Garden Party but then I had an envelope come through my door in June that stood out from any other in my post. Its not everyday the post arrives with a Buckingham Palace post mark.

Inside the envelope was a booklet with the details of the day and, and numerous other pieces of paper work that would be needed on the day. Included within this was my invitation card.

On July 16th I made my way to London by train with the aim to meet the rest of my group at Downing Street so that we could walk up The Mall to Buckingham Palace in uniform together. As we approached Buckingham Palace we began to mix with some of the other guests, which included a lot of High Ranking Officers from all the Armed Forces from around the Commonwealth. We got into the queue to go through the Front gates of Buckingham Palace but within seconds a policeman came along and asked us to follow him, he lead us past everyone else and into the front courtyard of Buckingham Palace, as we walked across the front of the Palace all the tourists were watching, it was quite an awe inspiring moment. We walked in through the front doors of the Palace and went into a hallway where everyone else in military uniform was stood. At 3 pm we were lead inside the Palace and out through the West Terrace Doors and out onto the Palace lawns, it took some time to realise where I actually was. There were 2 military bands playing on the lawn that sounded perfect. We went for a walk around the massive gardens and then made our way to the Tea Tent. After having something to eat, we watched the Yeoman of the Guard mark out the ground where the Royal Party would walk. At exactly 4 pm Her Majesty the Queen lead the Royal Party out onto the West Terrace and we all stood for the National Anthem. The Royal Party consisted of The Queen, Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward and Sophie Wessex. At that point I thought that would be the last we would see them until they left. I turned away from them for a second only to turn around and be surrounded by Princess Anne and Prince Andrew, both within arms length. We decided to take a walk around and then we came across Prince Edward talking to guests, we just stood around and the next thing we knew Prince Edward came across to speak to us, it was quite an immense feeling to have been spotted by a Royal and them actually coming across to chat to us. He spent about 5 minutes asking us about our time as cadets and was truly interested. As he walked away, we all sort of looked at each other as though it hadn't really happened, but we didn't have time to talk about it because within seconds Sophie Wessex was in front of us introducing herself, she put her hand out to shake our hands and it was amazing. I had always known that you don't touch Royalty but she was so nice and down to earth when she spoke to us it was incredible. She asked about cadets and University and again showed a genuine interest. As she walked away we turned around to be faced with the Duke of Edinburgh talking to someone behind us. It was amazing to have these people just standing next to you. We spotted Tony Blair but had no huge desire to speak to him. We went over to the Queen who was talking to Pop Idol star Gareth Gates. At that point the Royals went off to have their tea and we went for a walk around, only to walk into Gareth Gates. At 6 pm the Queen left the Royal Tea Tent to go back to the Palace as she walked all the guests gave a round of applause.

The whole afternoon had been like a magical dream and all so very British, it was something that was so fantastic to be a part of and something I will remember all my life.

Article Submitted by:-
CWO Ben Pinner - 121 (Nuneaton) Squadron

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