Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Pageant a once-in-a-lifetime job for Australian troops

London: RAAF Corporal Dean Norman has been dreaming of this his whole adult life: marching for “Queen and Country” past London’s famed landmarks alongside more than 1500 military men and women from across the Commonwealth.

Part of a 39-strong Australian contingent, drawn from navy, air force and army personnel, Norman says he’ll struggle to hold back the excitment of taking part in the military spectacle which will form the opening act of the Platinum Jubilee Pageant on Sunday evening AEST. Organisers have promised it will be a “once-in-a-generation” show, centred on Buckingham Palace and its surrounds.

RAAF Corporal Dean Norman, pictured at rehearsal this week, says marching in the Queen’s Jubilee pageant will be among the most exciting times in his life.

The 55-year-old marks 30 years in the air force this week. He has spent the best part of the past two decades in Canberra as part of the Australian Federation Guard.

“It took a long time for the stars to align but here I am,” Norman says. “It’s not even a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I don’t think we will ever experience anything like this again, so it makes it more special.”

An estimated 1 million spectators will line the streets for the event, with a worldwide television audience of 1 billion. About 10,000 people are involved, with performers from every part of the country and Commonwealth – military and creatives, dancers and supermodels – all converging on the route leading to the Palace. Included are regiments and units which have a special relationship with the Queen, including her Gurkha Engineers, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, The Royal Irish Regiment and The Royal Welsh and more than 200 horses.

They will be joined by personnel from countries including Canada, New Zealand, Pakistan, Ghana, Belize, Jamaica and Sri Lanka, as they make their way for more than 3 km through from Wellington Barracks, past Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, Downing Street, towards Nelson’s Column, turning left towards Buckingham Palace.

“The ceremonial side of things is something I was always drawn to and to get the opportunity like this is something I am going to treasure,” Norman says.

“We had a dress rehearsal and the moment you mark through Trafalgar Square, through those arches, down the Mall and see Buckingham Palace was incredible. To see the streets line with thousands of people is really going to be something extraordinary.”

Formed in 2000 for the centenary celebrations of Australian federation, the guard is the first purely ceremonial unit in the history of the Australian armed forces, and has since represented Australia in various roles both at home and around the world, including providing the guard at the palace in 2000.

Army Corporal Carissa Carter will be part of the Australian Federation Guard to march through the streets of London.

The pageant will be the Queen’s fourth – and only the eighth in history. Australia has made military contributions to all of them.

But Norman very nearly didn’t make the flight to Britain this week, following the death of his mother-in-law. He offered to stay behind and support his wife and family.

“She was insistent,” he says. “It’s been a tough time, but she wouldn’t have a bar of me missing this, which of course I would have been prepared to. It’s going to be a very special moment.”

Corporal Carissa Carter joined the Australian army about four years ago as a 31-year-old. She grew up on Queenland’s Sunshine Coast and stunned her friends when she joined the ADF.

“I love the history of it and to take part in something like this is really what it is all about,” she says.

“Marching through London, like a Monopoly tour, will be just a mind-blowing experience. I think the rehearsal actually drilled in the sheer magnitude of it for uss and there weren’t even big crowds.”

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