Armed Forces and their significant role in State Visits

UK armed forces have taken part in the state visit hosting the President of South Africa. Understand the important role armed forces play with events such as state visits.

Ministry of Defence
Voices Of The Armed Forces
4 min readNov 23, 2022

This week members of the Armed Forces have been involved in the official State Visit of the President of the Republic of South Africa. The military have a long history of providing ceremonial support for foreign leaders and Heads of state when visiting the United Kingdom.

Members of the UK Armed Forces have recently been taking part in ceremonial events to support the official State Visit of the President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa.

The visit saw over 1,000 personnel and over 200 horses taking part in events across London.

The RAF officially welcomed the President and marked the start of the State Visit by providing a Guard of Honour at Stansted Airport. Soldiers from The Household Division then supported events in central London with a Guard of Honour on Horse Guards Parade, inspected by HM The King and the President, and delivering the carriage procession to Buckingham Palace.

For many of those involved it was the first time they had supported a State Visit, given this is the first of this size to take place following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Troops from the Household Division ride ono horses as they travel down the Mall towards Buckinhgam Palace.
Household Division troops take part in the procession down the Mall as part of the state visit.

Gun salutes were also fired by The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery in Green Park, and the Tower of London, to formally mark the start of ceremonial proceedings with the President’s arrival at Horse Guards Parade.

More information on the ceremonial roles of The Household Division:

Weeks of planning and preparation went into this momentous occasion, with many military personnel rehearsing their ceremonial duties around the clock, including a full rehearsal in central London in the early hours of the morning.

“A huge amount of work went into preparing for the visit and we are very proud to have supported such an important national and international occasion.” — Lt Col James Shaw, Brigade Major of The Household Division, British Army.

The last State Visit took place in October 2018, where members of the Armed Forces played a central role in officially welcoming Their Majesties The King and Queen of The Netherlands.

The Armed Forces demonstrates tradition and pageantry in every State Visit, with many of the formalities dating back hundreds of years.

The purpose of a State Visit is to strengthen the ties between the United Kingdom and the visiting nation.

South Africa and the UK have a highly valued partnership, reflected as President Ramaphosa being the first leader to be invited for a State Visit by His Majesty The King.

This particular visit built upon the UK and the Republic of South Africa’s close ties through areas including the Commonwealth, trade and investment. The UK and South Africa also remain committed to working together on global challenges, including security and conflict, food security, health, and climate change.

In recent years, the Armed Forces have enjoyed a good relationship with the Republic of South Africa, delivering bilateral defence education courses in both the UK and South Africa.

The Royal Navy has also made regular visits to Simon’s Town on deployments.

Gun salutes take place in Green Park and outside the Tower of London as part of the State Visit of the President of South Africa.

UK armed forces plays a key role in all state ceremonies, most important of which, being the State Funeral for her late Majesty The Queen. Where over four thousand troops from Commonwealth countries took part. It was the largest ceremonial display that the UK armed forces have been a part of since the death of His Majesty King George VI.

Find out how the UK Armed Forces helped with Her Majesty’s funeral here:

· In Pictures: Rehearsing for Her Majesty The Queen’s funeral

This was the fourth incoming state visit by a South African President to the UK since 1994 and was the first hosted by His Majesty since becoming King.

South African and British flag line the streets of the Mall.
South African and British flags line the streets of the Mall.

Find out where else the UK Armed Forces are deployed here👇



Ministry of Defence
Voices Of The Armed Forces

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