The School has a unique 209 year old ceremonial tradition and regularly welcomes both Royal guests and senior officers to act as Inspecting Officers at its parades.
Our ceremonial Parades and magnificent 90-strong Marching Band make our school unique and are a time honoured way for students to celebrate military tradition, culminating in a full Trooping the Colour ceremony on our spectacular Grand Day. Students wear the cap badge of a family member who has served in the armed forces on their dress blues. We call this their "heart badge" and it is a poignant recognition of their own family's military heritage.
Grand Day is the highlight of our year at The Duke of York's Royal Military School. It is a day when we commemorate our heritage and tradition with prize giving in the morning, where we celebrate our students' academic success, followed by the Trooping the Colour ceremony in the afternoon. We are privileged to hold Colours, and on Grand Day we honour those Colours. The ceremony is a symbol of the unity of the school and a mark of respect to our foundation and forefathers.
A Very Special Parade
Preparation for this very special Parade is deceptively low key – it takes place quietly all year in term time when a Parade precedes the main Chapel Service. But as the big day draws near, the increasing excitement becomes almost tangible. Every student has a role to play and works hard to make the event perfect, not just for their own sake but for their peers, their House, their school, and their families, many of whom attend Grand Day.
Grand Day Ceremony
All aspects of the ceremony are conducted by the students themselves: they fill the Parade appointments; they form the Escort to the Colour, the Guards and the School Band. The level of skill and commitment demonstrated on and off the Parade ground sets an outstandingly high standard - one which they aspire to raise every year at the next Grand Day.
Duke of York's students guard the Torch of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey and lay a wreath at Dover Marine Station for Remembrance.
The students are specially selected to provide the Guard of Honour to stand guard over the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior and to play the last post and Reveille bugle call. The torch is annually lit at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior during a ceremony in memory of the British soldiers who died in the First World War and is then taken to Belgium to light the Belgium Torch of Remembrance. The student guards also take part in a wreath laying ceremony when the Torch travels back to Dover Marine Station en route to the battlefields of Belgium. The school holds its own remembrance service in the Chapel to remember those who have fallen in action, including hundreds of former Dukies.
In 2014, three students were selected to take part in the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall. In front of Her Majesty The Queen, they delivered parts of the multi faith prayer at the annual armed forces ceremony which honours those who have lost their lives in conflicts. Dressed in the school’s traditional No.1 Blues uniform, the students also escorted the torch of remembrance that was carried through the Royal Albert Hall at the end of the ceremony.
In October of each year, our Year 7 and new Year 8 students take part in their very first parade and receive a presentation of their School cap badge and beret from the Principal to mark the completion of their basic parade training. The formal ceremony acknowledges that our new students are ready to fully participate in all future School parades and it is a special moment for both pupils and their proud parents. Principal, Alex Foreman, takes the salute and presents the berets, assisted by Lt Colonel Steven Saunderson, the “Officer Commanding” School Ceremonial. WO1 RSM Howell, late Royal Military Police, and appointed Regimental Sergeant Major of the school, is responsible for ensuring the high standard of drill and ceremonial duties of all pupils.
With no previous experience and after only a few hours of drill instruction with the Under Officers and me, our newest and very nervous Year 7 students paraded in front of the school for the first time. Our Junior Under Officers work extremely hard practising with the junior students to prepare them for this special day. This is the first parade of many, leading towards the School’s Grand Day ‘Trooping the Colour’ ceremony. It is therefore considered a very significant and exciting event for all our young students.
WO1 RSM HOWELL