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Royal Marines Band enthrals tourists in Rome

6 December 2022
Tourists were enthralled by performances from the Royal Marines Band across iconic sights in Rome as a Royal Navy task group paid a five-day visit to Italy.

HMS Albion is currently spearheading an amphibious task group on the Royal Navy’s European security mission, Operation Achillean, which has also seen fleet flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth lead a force for flying operations in the North Sea. 

As the three-month deployment reaches its conclusion, Albion stopped in Italy to host events, including a visit from Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and welcoming a group of diplomats from the Baltic and North America in support of Ukraine. 

For sailors and Royal Marines it was an opportunity to visit Rome and their trip to the Eternal City included 26 members of the Royal Marines Band perform at sights including The Colosseum, Spanish Steps and Pincio Terrace. 

”It has been an amazing experience for the band to perform in Rome, the reception from the local crowd has been great,” said Lance Corporal Frank Rochford.

“I particularly enjoyed playing the bagpipes at the Spanish Steps which displays the unique capability of the Royal Marines Band Scotland, and just before St Andrew’s day too.”

The band delighted the crowds with a ‘Beat the Retreat’ and a selection of famous music, which included a rendition from the film Gladiator. The band also played the national anthems of Italy and the United Kingdom, marking the friendship between the two NATO allies.

The musicians then crossed the Piazza di Spagna and assembled at the foot of the 18th-Century Spanish Steps for sea shanties and James Bond medley, including the iconic theme tune.

The Corps of Drums then conducted their dramatic synchronised routine at unusually close quarters for the watching public, with the four drummers displaying their impeccable timing and choreography.

The band might have saved the best piece till last, as bagpiper LCpl Rochford stepped forward and began a short introductory solo which evolved into a perfectly-pitched riff, with the rest of the band joining in to create a brilliant Scottish cover version of the song Wake Me Up by Avicii.

Commanding Officer of HMS Albion, Captain Simon Kelly, said: “I am very grateful to the Italian public for their warm welcome to our sailors and Royal Marines. Being able to bring the Royal Marines Band Scotland to the beautiful city of Rome has been a career highlight for me, and I am very proud of how they have performed across a series of performances.”

His Majesty’s Ambassador to Italy, Lord Edward Llewellyn, is also HMS Albion’s Honorary Captain and spent several short periods at sea with his affiliated ship.  He hosted members of the ship’s company at his residence in recognition of their efforts on the deployment. 

“Watching the Royal Marines Band play in front of the Colosseum and the Spanish Steps was an unforgettable experience – not just for me, but I think for many Romans and many tourists too. Thank you, HMS Albion: fair winds and following seas as you head home.”

Berthed in Civitavecchia, the ship supported several high-profile events for the British Embassy during her stay, including a function for British and Italian industrial leaders, an ambassadors’ dinner with Baltic and North American diplomats in support of Ukraine, and a visit from Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who was in Italy to meet the Italian Defence Secretary Guido Crosetto.

Over the past three months HMS Albion has led the Royal Navy’s amphibious task group in an operation across the Eastern Mediterranean, North Africa and the Levant region. The visit to Italy was one of the last stops before the ship returns to its home port of Devonport.

Before her final leg home there was one last piece of business to conduct in Gibraltar as Captain Marcus Hember took command from Captain Kelly.

Capt Hember has previously commanded Type 45 destroyers HMS Daring (2017) and HMS Diamond (2014-16), as well as patrol vessels HMS Severn (2011-13) and HMS Clyde (2013). 

He has been in command on deployments to the Middle East and the Black Sea, as well as the Falkland Islands and sub-Antarctic South Georgia.

He said: “I am delighted to be assuming command of HMS Albion, which is a hugely versatile and capable ship. In achieving so much throughout Operation Achillean, she has again lived up to her reputation as one of the most successful ships the Royal Navy. 

“Able to transport Royal Marines, equipment and supplies by air and sea thanks to flight and vehicle decks and floodable well dock, HMS Albion is ready to fulfil a host of different roles, including acting as a command platform, carrying out amphibious operations, and providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief.”

As he departed, Capt Kelly said: “It has been a privilege to command HMS Albion for the past two years. 

“Most recently, our Operation Achillean deployment has demonstrated the utility and relevance of the Royal Navy’s amphibious capabilities and has showcased HMS Albion’s ability to act as the command platform for the Littoral Response Group (North). 

“Once again, I have been made immensely proud of the breadth of achievement of our people; both those who serve in Albion and more widely across the Task Group. I wish Captain Marcus and the rest of HMS Albion’s ship’s company every success in the years ahead.”

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