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24 September 2014

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Royal Navy Colour presentation archive
Royal Yacht Britannia in Torbay 1969
The Royal Yacht Britannia in Torbay in 1969
The Royal Navy Colour presentation in Plymouth in July 2003 is only the third time in history that the spectacle has taken place.

The last such ceremony was held in Torbay in 1969 - we we take a look back at the occasion.

Photo gallery from the Colour ceremony

Archive gallery from 1969 Colour ceremony

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There have only been two previous Fleet Colour presentations. The first, was presented by King George V in 1926 and the second, by Queen Elizabeth in 1969.

The West Country and the Royal Navy go back a long way. The ships that defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588 sailed from the mouth of the River Plym.

As long ago as 1691, a major naval dockyard was established in the River Tamar at Plymouth.

Devonport is the largest naval base in Western Europe. It covers over 650 acres, has 15 dry docks, four miles of waterfront, 25 tidal berths and five basins. The 1,750 civilian and service personnel are committed to the naval base mission "To Support the Fleet Worldwide."

Devonport is the base port of the largest ship in the Royal Navy, HMS Ocean which is 21,000 tonnes, and the smallest vessel in service, HMS Gleaner - a 25 tonne surveying motor launch.

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The pomp and ceremony surrounding the Queen's presentation of a new Colour to the Royal Navy is a rare event.

There have been only two previous Fleet Colour presentations. The first was by King George V in 1926 and the second by Queen Elizabeth II in 1969.

Browse through our 1969
photo archive

The last Colour presentation took place in Torbay, South Devon on the 28th and 29th July 1969.

On that occasion more than 30 naval and submarines from the Western Fleet anchored in Tor Bay for an inspection by The Queen.

The Queen wrapped up against the elements
The Queen was wrapped up against the elements

The fleet was shrouded in rain and mist as The Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and other members of the Royal Family sailed through the anchorage on board the Royal Yacht Britannia.

The Colour ceremony itself took place on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle where 1,500 naval personnel from the assembled ships gathered before The Queen.

For spectators on shore one of the highlights was a fly-past by 89 helicopters and aircraft from the Fleet Air Arm.

The Western Fleet
The Western Fleet anchored in Tor Bay in July 1969

Pride of place in the fly-past went to the Phantom, which in 1969 was the Navy's latest jet aircraft.

The fleet review took place exactly 381 years to the day after Sir Francis Drake fought the last battle of the Armada.

To recall that victory, a replica of the famous Drake's Drum was loaned by HMS Drake at Devonport.

It was placed at the top of the pile of drums on which the new Colour was placed by The Queen.

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