As in 2020, because of the pandemic, the Queen’s Birthday Parade could not go ahead in its traditional format on Horse Guards Parade, so a safe but fitting alternative was created.
F Company Scots Guards will Troop the Colour of 2nd Battalion Scots Guards in the Quadrangle at Windsor Castle, in a refined, socially distanced Queen’s Birthday Parade.
Although smaller than a traditional Trooping the Colour, this year’s parade will incorporate many of the elements from the annual ceremonial parade on Horse Guards, including 70 horses, 3 Royal Horse Artillery Guns, and 274 officers, soldiers and musicians.
The parade is a gift from the Household Division to The Queen and a reassurance to Her Majesty and the Nation, of the Armed Forces’ loyalty to the Crown.
The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, Two Divisions and a Standard Party of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment will join the Foot Guards on parade this year. Number 2 Guard will be found by Nijmegen Company Grenadier Guards. Number 3 Guard will be found by 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards. Number 4 Guard will be found by 7 Company Coldstream Guards. They will be accompanied by a massed band of the Household Division consisting of musicians from all five Foot Guards Bands and the 1st Battalion Scots Guards Pipes and Drums.
All those selected to take part are the Army’s finest musicians, horses and the best turned out soldiers from the Major General’s Inspections that took place in April, May and early June.
The soldiers need to be exceptional, not just because to take part is a significant honour, but because with that privilege comes intense challenges.
Ordinarily, guardsmen and musicians on parade would be shoulder-to-shoulder, enabling them to maintain ‘dressing’ or staying in line with one another with relative ease, but in keeping with government COVID-19 guidelines on social distancing, each guardsman is now tasked with standing 2.2m apart, measured by three turns of the pace stick. They are effectively isolated and must act independently without the former comforting prompts from right and left.
For this year’s parade the music is distinctly Scottish, with many pieces arranged especially for the event by the Director of Music for the Band of the Scots Guards, Major Mark Aldridge. Among the music performed will be “Scotland the Brave”, F Company’s March “A Man’s A Man For A’ That”, and poignantly “The Crags of Tumbledown Mountain” which was written by Pipe Major James Riddell of 2nd Battalion Scots Guards immediately after the battle of Mount Tumbledown during the Falklands War.
Since its formation more than 375 years ago, the Scots Guards has forged a reputation as one of the toughest fighting units in the British Army. Its soldiers are renowned for their discipline and courage in battle. They are Mechanised Infantry using Mastiff and Jackal 2 armoured vehicles to engage enemy troops. They train to use speed to cross the battlefield quickly and launch onto difficult objectives. Recognised as innovators, they are due to be one of the first STRIKE Mechanised Infantry units with a new fleet of impressive vehicles at the forefront of British Army capability.
In addition to their combat role, the regiment’s ceremonial company (F Company) has the special honour of acting as guards at royal residences such as Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace. Their traditional uniform – a red tunic with buttons in threes and bearskin cap – is famous the world over.
This will be 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.
Garrison Sergeant Major Warrant Officer Class 1 Andrew Stokes has masterminded the design of this refined version of the traditional Trooping the Colour ceremony. He has overseen the training, which took place this year at Cavalry Barracks in Hounslow –coincidentally where the Scots Guards were billeted when they were first brought south of the border in 1694 to join the Royal Guards. He said: “There’s been no regular ceremonial since the pandemic – the troops have all been busy with the Covid Support Force at home and operational commitments abroad, so the memory muscle for drill is a little rusty.”
“We’ve had to work extra hard to get people back to the required standard for a world class parade. With fewer people on parade than a normal Troop the pressure on the individual soldier is that much greater. There is no hiding place, there never is, and only the highest standard is acceptable, but more spacing between individuals means that there is also no room for errors, and so the soldier has to really concentrate on their own personal drill, reaction to orders, dressing and social distancing.”
Lieutenant Colonel David Marsham, 44, from King’s Lynn, has 20 years of operational service in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan, and in the past year was commanding troops employed in the COVID testing programme in the NW of England. He is 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 Subaltern for the parade. He said: “Commanding the Escort as we Troop our Colour is the highlight of my Army Career. To help celebrate the birthday of Her Majesty The Queen after the sadness of losing the Duke of Edinburgh makes me extremely proud. We represent a nation who want 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, he will carry the Colour – the richly embroidered ceremonial flag which is the valued symbol of the Battalion’s operational prowess and is believed to carry the spirits of all those that have fallen since the Battalion was found.
He said: “I feel 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 is a celebration for the nation after Covid-19”.
At 12 noon The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery will fire a 41 Gun Royal Salute from the East Lawn using three of their First World War era Guns to mark Her Majesty’s official birthday.
Major General Christopher Ghika is General Officer Commanding the Household Division and ultimately responsible for delivering the Birthday Parade. He has spent the last 15 months as the Joint Military Commander for London commanding all military support to the civil authorities in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Among other tasks, this assistance has entailed logistical support to resilience partners to distribute key supplies and protective equipment, the provision of static and mobile testing centres and the delivery of vaccines. It has been a challenging time for all, but he said:
“Trooping of the Colour has marked the official birthday of the Sovereign since 1748. Despite the COVID restrictions, marking the official birthday of Her Majesty The Queen is an important and much valued duty annually for the Household Division. It is therefore with much pride that all ranks on parade look forward to Trooping the Colour in front of Her Majesty on Saturday 12th June 2021.”
The parade will be broadcast live on BBC1 TV from 10.15am on Saturday 12 June in the UK, and will be syndicated to other national and international broadcasters so it can be seen worldwide. It will also be streamed live on YouTube. A highlights programme will be screened on BBC 2 TV at 8pm and the programme will also be available to watch on BBCi-Player.