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Royal Artillery birthday celebrations go off with a bang at Scrabo Tower

By Lisa Smyth

Published 11/05/2016

The salute

Northern Ireland has played its own part in the celebrations of the 300th anniversary of the formation of the Royal Artillery.

Past 'Gunners' from (Ulster) Battery 206 gathered at Scrabo Hill Tower yesterday to witness a nine round feux de joie - or 'fire of joy' - to mark the return of a specially commissioned baton.

The baton was designed and made by apprentices at the Belfast factory of defence engineering firm Thales and returned yesterday after an incredible round-the-world journey taking in deserts, rapids, snowcaps and jungles.

Under clear blue skies and with all the pomp expected at such a ceremony, the nine-round salute boomed out.

Major Peter Jentles, who oversaw the event, said: "The baton has travelled about 2,000 miles, visiting over 50 countries, involving soldiers and officers, regular and reserves, along the way.

"The journey will end at our regimental home in Larkhill when a message of goodwill to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, Captain General of our regiment, will be unveiled."

206 (Ulster) Battery has responsibility for firing all royal salutes in Northern Ireland - which take place at Hillsborough Castle simultaneously with London, Edinburgh and Cardiff to mark royal occasions six times each year.

John Trussler (83), who is a member of Coleraine Royal Artillery Association, made the journey from Coleraine to witness the feux de joie.

Originally from Hove in Sussex, he joined the Army in 1949 and came to Northern Ireland as a permanent staff instructor in 1970.

"We came here today to see the younger generation and make sure they're doing it right," he said.

"I think it was important to be here, as I've been a Gunner all my life."

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