Military drumhead service in Southsea

9th March 2018

On 5th June 2014, Princess Anne inspected a parade of veterans, Navy personnel and cadets ahead of a multi-faith drumhead service on the Southsea Seafront.

Estimates reckon just over 150,000 people assembled on Southsea Seafront to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day. In June 1944, thousands of men left that same shore bound for the unknown of Normandy.

The mood on the Clarence Esplanade is by nature solemn. But there is also an air of celebration of the freedom and liberty brought about by that fateful campaign.

On parade in Southsea

Servicemen on parade to the drumhead service on Clarence Esplanade in Southsea during D-Day commemorations. Photo taken on 5th June 2014.

The Drumhead Service

Princess Anne led the commemoration. She is Commodore in Chief of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth. On our WWIINI D-Day journey, this Drumhead Service was the beginning of our experience.

As the proceedings began, a parade of over 200 formed behind the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines. Around 80 World War Two veterans joined with cadets and currently serving sailors to march along the seafront to applause from the gathered crowds.

The band played Globe and Laurel, By Land and Sea, Where’er You Walk and World in Union as she inspected the parade. During the service, next to the Royal Navy Memorial, they were joined by the Postmouth Cathedral Choir. En masse they performed Hymn to the Fallen, Band of Brothers and Judex.

Lord Bishop of Portsmouth, Rev Christopher Foster and Dean of Portsmouth Rev David Brindly led the service. The congregation shared prayers based on words given by General Eisenhower in 1944.

Following The Last Post, a minutes silence and the National Anthem rounded off the service in front of hundreds of assembled onlookers.

What is a drumhead service?

A drumhead service is an old battlefield tradition. It is a multi-denominational religious event which appeals to all men on the field regardless of their church. The name comes from the stacking of drumheads to form a makeshift altar.

On the front lines, this style of service was commonplace where no building could house a religious service. Soldiers prayed and gave thanks for survival where they could.

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