On this day nineteen years ago – Monday 2nd August 1999 – the Government of the United Kingdom closed down the greatest annual military tattoo namely the Royal Tournament.
Each summer for three weeks the very best of the U.K. Military qualities was on show to the public with afternoon and evening performance held at Earls Court, London.
Each performance was a sell out and only once did the tournament not make a profit with the money going towards supporting ex-service personnel organisations and that was in 1998.
So what was the reason behind scrapping the Royal Tournaments?
Well the Minister for Defence, one George Robertson in the Tony Blair Government gave a number of reasons – all of which didn’t add up then and still don’t today.
He argued that it was because of security issues around the Tournament itself which considering that it had taken place without any major incident throughout the Northern Ireland IRA conflict was simply pathetic as an excuse.
He argued that it was the result of the 1998 Strategic Defence Review which was surprising because the review never mentioned the Royal Tournament.
Perhaps the truth was when he claimed the Royal Tournament was to “militaristic and jingoistic” designed to celebrate the United Kingdom colonial and imperialistic past which wasn’t in keeping with the New Labour policies.
Shortly afterwards George Robertson who was so opposed to that history became an unelected Lord and went off to be the Secretary General of NATO.
Not surprisingly there was no consideration given to the fact that the Royal Tournament was the inspiration for many who watched it to go on to enlist and serve this nation around the world.
The one single thing I will always remember is the mass disobedience of the Royal Navy Field Gun Crews who had been ordered not to demonstrate after the final run of an event that had taken place for one hundred years.
For those who don’t know what the Royal Navy Field Gun was about you can find it on You Tube.
Clearly the Royal Tournament will never return and Earls Court has now been demolished but it will always hold fond memories for those who took part in it, those who went to see it and especially for those in the Royal Navy who were fortunate to Run Out, Run Back and Run Home.