Despite the pandemic, the Army made sure that Her Majesty’s Official Birthday Parade for her 95th year was suitably spectacular and celebratory. Weeks before these same soldiers had gathered in the Windsor Castle Quadrangle for the solemn occasion of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, but today as Scottish airs were piped, young guardsmen marched immaculately and horses gleamed, the mood was one of hope for a brighter future.
The annual parade which ordinarily would take place on Horse Guards Parade in front of thousands of spectators and which is watched by millions throughout the Commonwealth and worldwide on TV, is a gift from the Household Division to The Queen and a reassurance to Her Majesty and the Nation, of the Armed Forces’ unstinting loyalty to the Crown.
F Company Scots Guards Trooped the Colour of 2nd Battalion Scots Guards today in the Quadrangle at Windsor Castle, in a refined, socially distanced Queen’s Birthday Parade. The Queen was joined on the dais by HRH The Duke of Kent who is Royal Colonel Scots Guards.
Although smaller than a traditional Trooping the Colour, due to rules over social distancing, this year’s parade had been carefully designed to incorporate many of the traditional elements.
Irish Draught horses drew first world war era Royal Horse Artillery Guns; the Coldstream Guards and Grenadier Guards joined the Scots Guards on parade in their distinctive red tunics and bearskin caps, and the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment dazzled in their shining silver cuirasses and helmets.
All were accompanied by music performed by the Army’s finest musicians drawn from the five Foot Guards Bands and the 1st Battalion Scots Guards Pipes and Drums.
In keeping with government COVID-19 guidelines on social distancing, each Guardsman was 2.2m apart, measured by three turns of the pace stick.
With embroidered thistles on tunic collars, tartan kilts and the skirl of the pipes, there could be no mistaking this was a very Scottish parade. Director of Music for the Band of the Scots Guards, Major Mark Aldridge, arranged and conducted most of the music which included “Scotland the Brave”, F Company’s March “A Man’s A Man For A’ That”, and poignantly “The Crags of Tumbledown Mountain” which had been written by Pipe Major James Riddell of 2nd Battalion Scots Guards immediately after the battle of Mount Tumbledown during the Falklands War.
Despite the regiment’s 17th century origins, this was only the second time in history that a Scots Guards Trooping the Colour has taken place in Windsor. The first occasion was in 1895 for Queen Victoria.
This special parade was even more memorable for Colonel Jeremy Bagshaw Coldstream Guards, who not only was on parade with his son, Henry, a very rare father and son coincidence; but he had also just discovered that he was the recipient of the CBE in the Birthday Honours List for his remarkable achievements managing the military’s COVID response and support to the NHS in London.
Lieutenant Colonel David Marsham, 44, from King’s Lynn, was this year’s Field Officer in Brigade Waiting – the officer commanding the Queen’s Birthday Parade. By remarkable coincidence, in 1920, as Britain was coming out of the last pandemic, Viscount Marsham, David’s direct ancestor, was Captain of the Escort on the King’s Birthday Parade.
Captain Charlie Longstaff, 28, from Archerton, Dartmoor is second in command of F Company Scots Guards and was Subaltern for the parade. He said: “Commanding the Escort as we Troop our Colour was the highlight of my Army Career. To help celebrate the birthday of HM The Queen after the sadness of losing the Duke of Edinburgh made me extremely proud. We represented a nation who wanted to be there for her and celebrate her extraordinary work even in the darkest of times.”
Lieutenant Hugh Dingwall, 25, from Blairgowrie, Perthshire, managed a COVID-19 Mobile Testing Unit shortly after joining the Scots Guards last year, and tested the troops participating in the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral. As the Ensign today, he carried the Colour – the richly embroidered ceremonial flag which is the valued symbol of the Battalion’s operational prowess and is believed to represent the spirits of all those that have fallen since the Battalion was found.
He said: “I felt immensely proud to be Trooping the Colour of the 2nd Battalion representing so many Scots who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for the Crown. It’s the first time these Colours have been Trooped on the Birthday Parade in 24 years. It comes after a very difficult 18 months for the country and for Her Majesty and hopefully it was a celebration for the nation after Covid-19”.
For all those on parade today’s ceremonial parade – the first of its kind since 2019, was a beacon of hope after a challenging but memorable year. While the country has been in lockdown, the soldiers have deployed operationally to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Falkland Islands, Mali, Zambia, Estonia, Nigeria, and Kosovo and sent specialist training teams across the globe to assist partner nations.
Closer to home, they have provided an unbroken response and support to the NHS and local communities in the fight against COVID-19, pioneering the testing services which are now mainstream; supporting hospitals, offering logistic and planning support, and assisting with the vaccination roll out. Together with the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment the Guards have maintained the most rigorous standards and continued to provide 24/7 guard duties for the Royal Household and Palaces in London and Windsor. They can’t wait to return to full ceremonial duties in public.
At 12 noon The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery fired a 41 Gun Royal Salute from East Lawn using three of their First World War era Guns to mark Her Majesty’s official birthday. The Royal Air Force traditional flypast made a secret surprise return to the parade this year with the RAF Red Arrows displaying their own distinctive tribute to Her Majesty, painting the skies above Windsor with their own bow of hope,
The parade was broadcast live on BBC1 TV from 10.15am on Saturday 12th June in the UK, and syndicated to other national and international broadcasters so it could be enjoyed safely worldwide. It was also streamed live on YouTube and is available to watch on BBCi-Player catch up TV.