This September, the military will take to the streets of the City with drums beating, colours flying, and bayonets fixed.
No one need be alarmed though. The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, escorted by the City Marshal, will be exercising their right to march through the Square Mile due to their status as one of the few privileged regiments welcome within the City of London. Some of the UK’s best-known military units share this same right, including the Household Cavalry.
There are some 216 regular and reserve units, and 101 cadet units, across the capital as a whole. In today’s modern, international and bustling city, it’s no longer necessary to monitor the movement of regiments, but the Square Mile’s strong relationship with the military continues.
The City has links with some of the UK’s oldest units, including the Honourable Artillery Company dating from 1087, and the Coldstream Guards, first raised in 1659. We are also affiliated with some of the newest units in the armed forces, including HMS Queen Elizabeth, the Royal Navy’s largest ever vessel.
I am especially excited by this particular affiliation, in my capacity as an international ambassador for financial and professional services. The new aircraft carrier will be the Navy’s flagship when she enters service in 2020, and as such will be a striking symbol for UK business, showcasing Britain as an outward-facing and globally ambitious country.
This symbolism can be used to drive business. We can look forward to her coming alongside in major foreign cities, including New York in September, as she leverages feelings of goodwill to expand trade and investment overseas.
Although it might not be obvious, business and the military underpin one another in many ways.
We know that free trade creates prosperity, prosperity underpins social cohesion, social cohesion creates stability – and stability generates security. Our Armed Forces risk their lives preserving that security which our society creates, and many businesses I meet benefit from staff who also serve in the reserve forces, where they learn vital new cross-disciplinary skills.
Two weeks ago, we celebrated the dedication of City reservists during Reserves Day. These individuals give up their spare time to the Forces, balancing civilian life with a military career, to ensure that they will be ready to serve if called upon. This is something that the City of London Corporation wholeheartedly supports, and I know City firms have made great strides in supporting reservists over recent years.
I was honoured to preside over the raising of the Armed Forces Day flag at Guildhall last month, as well as hosting the RAF 100 celebrations there in April. I was pleased to see cadets represented at both of these events.
The theme of my mayoral year is the Business of Trust, and the web of connections between the City, its schools, churches and businesses on one hand, and its regular, reserve and cadet units on the other is a part of how that trust is generated and maintained.
In the City of London, we are incredibly proud of this long-standing relationship, and I look forward to meeting more of the brave men and women who serve this great country over the coming months.