The centenary of the RAF will be central to celebrations at this year’s Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo which starts on Friday.
The theme of the show is The Sky’s the Limit with projections to be shone on to the Edinburgh Castle walls during performances.
Among the international performers will be the Royal Cavalry of the Sultanate of Oman’s Pipers on horseback and its all-female marching band.
The Courier was given a preview at Redford Barracks in Edinburgh on Wednesday as more than 1,200 cast and crew gave their first public run-through of this year’s spectacular show which will play out to an audience of 8,800 each evening, running at Edinburgh Castle Esplanade until August 25.
Brigadier David Allfrey is chief executive and producer of The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. He is also Colonel of the Regiment for the Leuchars-based Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (SCOTS DG).
Although SCOTS DG are not taking part in the tattoo this year having recently returned from a posting in Cyprus, it’s apt that the RAF – so long associated with Leuchars – should be central to this year’s celebration.
He said: “We are celebrating several big anniversaries. One is RAF100, there’s also Scotland’s Year of Young People – there’s an awful lot of young people involved.
“It’s also the 100th anniversary of the Czech Republic – we have their armed forces here – and it’s also the end of the 1914-18 war, leading up to the big 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. They are all represented in or about. But RAF100 is the really big one.”
Lance Sergeant John Mitchell, 25, of the 1st Battalion Scots Guards grew up in Fintry, Dundee.
The piper – a former pupil of Ancrum Road Primary and Harris Academy who joined the Army when he was 15 years and nine months old – will have the honour of playing solo from the castle ramparts during the tattoo.
The former 68 BB Pipe Band member and Black Watch cadet, who has piped at three previous Tattoos, said: “Those of us who are pipe major qualified are on a rota to be solo piper.
“I did it last year and it’s a really proud moment when the spotlight just hits you and you are looking over the whole of Edinburgh. It’s a moment when you just need to take a breath.”
Award-winning dancer April Hunter, 24, from Arbroath, is a member of the Tattoo Dance Company – an international assortment of Highland dancers.
The former Arbroath High School pupil who has taken a career break from her job as a primary school teacher in Forfar to do more with the dance company overseas, said: “We only came together on Saturday for our first rehearsal so it’s been quite intense.”
The daughter of a former RM Condor Royal Marine, added: “It’s a total buzz. The adrenalin is always going. It’s great to be performing in front of an audience of that many people.”
More than 100 Mexican performers will bring mariachi music to the event, while the Central Band of the Czech Armed Forces and Ondras Military Art Ensemble will make their Tattoo debut to mark the 100th anniversary of Czechoslovakian independence.
The Edinburgh Girls’ High School from Malawi will also perform for the first time with girls from the Mary Erskine School choir.
The Malawi school, named because of its close link with the Mary Erskine School, is now in its fifth year with a total roll of 160 girls in the region of Engcongolweni, near Mzuzu.
Directors of the Tattoo said the performances, projections and light shows will “take the audience on the incredible journey following man’s obsession with flight, including space travel”.
Musicians will open the show with “sounds of the soaring Spitfire, gearing up for take-off” while Highland dancers will also wear outfits in tribute to the RAF.
As well as the music and dancing, the Royal Ypriana Wind Band Buglers will perform the Last Post, to mark the end of the centenary of World War One.
This year will be the first Edinburgh show since organisers revealed plans to take the Tattoo across the world and double its turn-over to £20m by 2025 with performances in Australia, Canada and China.
The Leuchars-based RAF Central Scotland Pipes and Drums are also amongst those taking part.
Sir Stephen Hillier, chief of the air staff, said: “In our 100th anniversary year, I’m really delighted that the Royal Air Force has the lead for this year’s Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo – a very special event in a very special year.
“Scotland has always been a vital part of that RAF story. From 100 years ago at Montrose Station, the first operational military airfield, to today at RAF Lossiemouth on the Moray coast, one of the RAF’s principal bases, protecting UK and Nato airspace.”
Other highlights include the United States Air Force Honour Guard Drill team with fan favourites The Massed Military Bands and Massed Pipes and Drums creating a poignant finale.