On 1 December HMS Albion set sail from Italy after a five day visit during which the Band of His Majesty’s Royal Marines Scotland performed at iconic sites across Rome, including the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, and the Pincio Terrace.
The ship had a packed programme, which included a visit from the Secretary of State for Defence, a function for leaders in industry, as well as hosting a group of diplomats in support of Ukraine.
The Royal Marines Band Scotland’s performances were the highlight for the Italian public. Large crowds of locals and tourists gathered around the twenty-six musicians during each spontaneous performance at iconic venues across the city. The first performance took place at the Colosseum, with the crowds parting as the band, under the cool autumnal sun, marched on against the spectacular backdrop of the Eternal City. 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.
Moving to their second venue at the iconic 18 Century Spanish Steps, they walked across the Piazza di Spagna and assembled at the foot of the steps opposite the Fontana della Barcaccia. Passers-by quickly congregated in anticipation of the music ahead. As well as traditional sea shanties, a highlight of this performance was a 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 saved the best piece ‘til last, as bagpiper Lance Corporal Frank Rochford stepped forward and began a short introductory solo in anticipation of St Andrew’s day celebrations the next day. This 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.
The third and final public performance was at the Pincio Terrace, a viewpoint overlooking historic Rome and set within the extensive Villa Borghese gardens. It was a slightly more traditional repertoire featuring a selection of sea shanties, and the band displayed their skill with various marching formations.
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 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 Saint Andrew’s day too!
His Majesty’s Ambassador to Italy, Lord Edward Llewellyn, OBE is also HMS Albion’s Honorary Captain and has spent several short periods at sea with his affiliated ship. Now that Albion was in Italy the Ambassador took the opportunity to host members of the ship’s company at his residence, in recognition of their efforts on the Op ACHILLEAN deployment.
It was a huge honour to be able to welcome members of the Ship’s Company of HMS Albion to my Residence – and to thank them for their dedicated service. I was very proud to welcome Albion to Italy – not just as the British Ambassador but also as the ship’s Honorary Captain. Watching the Royal Marines Band Scotland 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 alongside in Civitavecchia, the ship supported several high-profile events for the British Embassy during its stay. These included a lunch 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.
Reflecting on the visit, the 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.
Over the past three months HMS Albion has been leading the Royal Navy’s amphibious task group in an operation across the Eastern Mediterranean, North Africa and the Levant region. The visit to Italy is to be one of the last stops before the ship returns to its home port of Devonport, Plymouth.