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Centenary

Our Regimental main effort, despite all other ceremonial and training commitments, had to be our Centenary. Planning for this special year started back in 2012 and it was decided to form two Regimental Committees, the first to produce a book to cover our last 100 years of service to Crown and Country, the second to decide what the Regiment should do to mark our Centenary in the way of events.

Reflections on the Centenary Year by Colonel TCS Bonas, Regimental Adjutant.

First, our Centenary book. Whilst many in the Regiment were accustomed to writing and producing articles for various publications, doing so for a book was in a totally different league. There was much to consider; what to be included, author, title, length, cost, images, marketing, copyright, publisher, MoD clearances to mention some, and of course the timetable of work and publication date. The Regiment was delighted that Trevor Royle, who had written our 75th Anniversary book “The Anatomy of a Regiment”, agreed to be the author of our Centenary Book. From a succession of meetings of the Regimental Book Committee, and the work of some very dedicated Welsh Guardsmen, the book took shape. We chose, from a number of other excellent suggested titles, “Bayonets, Bearskins and Body Armour” as the title and Pen and Sword proved excellent advisors as our publishers.

The commercial side of the book was underpinned by a contract between the Regiment, the author and the publisher and this really proved its worth throughout the process. Our aim was to publish the book in December 2014 and which, despite three years of work and careful planning, went down to the wire but the mission was accomplished and we managed to hit our deadline. Whilst our Centenary book could not include every aspect of the Regiment’s life, it managed to capture most of it and serves as an excellent résumé of our history as we went into our Centenary year. So many Welsh Guardsmen contributed to it.

Members of the Regimental Centenary Committee were drawn from across the Regiment – the Association, the Battalion, our museum, the Welsh Guards Club, the Warrant Officers and Sergeants Club, as well as the Regimental Band and was chaired by the Regimental Lieutenant Colonel, who was also Chairman of the Regimental Book Committee. In providing a “Concept of Operations” or in modern speak a “Scheme of Manoeuvre” to underpin our events, the Committee decided that our Centenary should be one of celebration on reaching our 100th birthday but also importantly remembering our heritage and those who had fallen or who had been wounded in the service of the Regiment and their Country. In addition, we saw the Centenary as an opportunity to further raise the profile of the Regiment and, where appropriate, carry out discreet fund raising for the Welsh Guards Charity.

Presentation of New Colours, Windsor Castle

Based on these principles, our Centenary Year unfolded. The Centenary Book was officially launched on 26th February at The Royal Hospital, Chelsea, the same date in 1915 that King George V signed the Royal Warrant to raise the Regiment. St David’s Day was held at the iconic Millennium Centre in Cardiff on 1st March with a huge turn-out – nearly 2,500 were there and our most senior soldier, Field Marshal the Lord Guthrie, presented the leeks. Considerable focus and work was put into the Presentation of New Colours by The Queen at Windsor Castle at the end of April. 1,700 attended this special day which seemed to go without hitch and blessed with fine weather. Trooping in our Centenary Year and with a new Queen’s Colour was another special and we must thank the Ministry of Defence and Headquarters Household Division for allowing us to do this given that our last Troop was in 2013.

Following the summer, the Battalion surged into Wales to conduct a number of Freedom Parades in September/ October during which we laid up our Old Colours in Caernarfon in North Wales and were granted the Freedom of Newport. Also in September, we conducted a Regimental Battlefield Tour to Loos, our first Battle Honour in September 1915 as well as visiting the Somme in which the Regiment was involved in 1916, as well as later in the war. The Regimental Band, itself formed in September 1915 and therefore also its Centenary, played a hugely important part thought out the year and was exemplary in their support and outstanding in their performances.

Exercising the Freedom of Powys County in Brecon

The Battalion, in addition to providing the main support and lead for many of the Centenary events, wished to mark the Centenary in its own unique way and this was through an ambitious project named “Welsh Guards 100”. Justice to this in a few sentences is difficult but its aim was to visit every location and theatre the Regiment had served or fought in since 1915 and in doing so conducting “100 marathons” in a timescale of 100 days, and in doing so remembering our heritage, the fallen and wounded as well as raising our profile. The mission was resoundingly accomplished with over half the Battalion taking part. In an already busy year, this must be counted as one of those stand out achievements and certainly not forgotten.

The Commanding Officer and a WG100 team.

It has been a remarkable and fitting Centenary Year with so much achieved. Our Colonel, ever supportive, at the heart of so many of our events and it was particularly special that 2015 also marked the 40th Anniversary of his Colonelcy of the Welsh Guards. We hope we have done justice to those currently serving, but also to all those who have served with the Regiment since our formation in 1915.

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