The function of The Queen’s Guards (or sometimes ‘the footguards’ as they’re internally known) is to work alongside the Police in guarding the Royal residences. The sentries that are posted at the royal residences are genuine infantry members of the British Army who have almost certainly seen active service in conflict.
They come from one of the 5 regiments of footguards, which have remained largely the same since the foundation of the newest regiment of footguards in the early 20th century.
The 5 regiments of footguards are: the Grenadiers guards (referred to as the ‘first of foot’ for having the longest uninterrupted connection with guarding the Sovereign), the Coldstream Guards (the oldest regiment of foot, yet not the first of foot; during the Interregnum period, the Coldstream guards fought on the side of Parliament), the Scots Guards, the Irish Guards and the Welsh Guards.
‘First Thing’s First’
The footguards go through months of extra arduous training on top of what a soldier already does, to make them fit for the footguards. This training involves learning the drill movements are how to respond to words of command.
One is taught also how to ‘mount a Queen’s Guards’, as it is called, before a passing out parade in front of their family’s in the new regimental uniform.
Joining Your Regiment
After the training and passing out parade is over; you will join your regiment. If joining the Grenadier Guards, it is customary to receive a posting at first to what is known as ‘Nijmegen Company’ which is a company devoted to London ceremonial, such as Queen’s Guard.
Upon arriving, you’ll receive your new uniform. If you’re joining in the summer, you’ll receive a bearskin cap, trousers (or tweeds as they’re called), boots and what is known as the ‘Home Service Tunic’, which is the famous and iconic red tunic worn by the guards during the summer. During the winter, guards are issued with all the same equipment, except the red tunic, which is put away and instead, you’d be issued with a grey long coat known as the ‘Great Coat’.
All the uniform issued is greatly expensive and can cost upwards of £1,000 per soldier.
It would be your responsibility to maintain a shine on your boots and ensure all your equipment is in good order. For example, the bearskin cap should be worn in the shower to wash it properly.
By now, you’ll be ready to mount your first Queen’s Guard. You’ll possibly participate in the large changing the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle where you’ll be marched onto the respective grounds to music in groups. If not, you’ll come out form the respective guardroom of Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace, Windsor Castle or the Tower of London in a ‘detachment’ of around 2-6 soldiers and one ‘NCO’ who is the guard commander.
You will march to your new post where you’ll halt next to the old sentry and be read a sheet of instructions at your post by the NCO which will tell you your duties and how you should act at your post.
The NCO will then step back and shout, “Sentries… PASS”, the old guard will march away and you’d be left to guard at your new post.
As a sentry now, you’d be responsible for maintaining the security of all property within your sight. You must stay alert and ready to respond to any threats that may occur.
As you’ll be standing guard for 2 hours, it is important to manage your time and to know how to act to avoid fatigue or any other sort of restlessness in order to discharge your duties properly.
The guards are advised on proper ergonomics for standing at their posts. They are to stay at their post for 2 hours, marching every 10 minutes a set distance back and forth from their post, in order to keep their legs awake.
When stood at their post, they are told to ‘stand at ease’ which means having one’s feet shoulder width apart to balance the weight. You shouldn’t lock your knees and you should try and occupy your mind, so you don’t faint. (Standing still for two hours is very monotonous and can often cause fatigue.)
Also when at your post, you need to be aware of whose passing. If an officer or detachment of guards is marching past, you need to salute. If a member of the Royal Family or another dignitary is passing your post, you need to present arms.
As a sentry, it is important for you to guard your post properly. In the event of some kind of attack, you’ll be responsible for ensuring peace and security is maintained. You’d have the right to shout at those who interfere with your duties and also, the power to detain anyone who is causing a threat to the post.
If you do have to detain someone, there is a button inside your sentry box that can be used to contact the guardroom, where assistance can be granted. Usually, there are two sentry posts next to each other so guards can work in pairs, one detaining, one contacting.
In certain circumstances, it may be necessary to discharge your weapon, permission from the guard commander would be needed for this.
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