Canadian Gunners guard Her Majesty The Queen for the first time

Ninety soldiers of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery (RCA) accompanied by thirty-six musicians from their band were on parade at Wellington Barracks in London under the watchful gaze of the Household Division’s Brigade Major, Lieutenant Colonel Guy Stone and Garrison Sergeant Major Andrew (Vern) Stokes.

For the Canadian troops, this was the culmination of many weeks of training, parade ground practice and preparation as this was the British Army’s Household Division’s fit for role inspection. An afternoon of intense scrutiny and examination which all units are put through to ensure they meet the standard required to fulfill the honour of guarding Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. It involved their ceremonial uniforms being checked, the intricate drill sequences, discipline, bearing and accuracy of step all being marked and critiqued. 

“We have to stay focused, there’ll be a few nerves to start with and a lot of excitement. Everyone is looking forward to getting out there this is an opportunity for our soldiers to showcase our Regiment on the international stage which is an exceptional privilege.” Guard Commander Major Michael Crosier, Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery

2021 marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery’s A and B Batteries in Kingston Ontario and Quebec City back in 1871. It was the first regiment to be independently raised and so formed the vanguard of the Canadian professional Army. It allowed the country to bear responsibility for its own defence and paved the way for eventual political autonomy.

To commemorate this unique occasion they received an invitation from Her Majesty the Queen to form the Queen’s Guard. They will stand guard at: Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace, Windsor Castle and The Tower of London. Although other Canadian military units have performed public duties (Royal Guard mounts in London & Windsor) in the past, this is the first time the honour has been bestowed upon the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery.   

This regiment, being an operationally-focused unit, is by its own admission not accustomed to performing such exact drill movements as Major Michael Crosier pointed out, “Our normal roles are operating the guns, manning observation posts, target surveillance and acquisition using unmanned aerial vehicles (drones). We don’t normally parade often; it only really happens when we have a change of commander, so we are not used to such ceremonial occasions like this.” 

“ Because they are regiment that doesn’t do big parades, they have put a lot of hard work in. Their progression has been really good, and the professionalism of their soldiers has been first class, which has helped them come from where they were to their exceptional standard today.” Warrant Officer Class II Dwain Oliver, Drill Sergeant Grenadier Guards.

Preparations for them to take up public duties started over six weeks ago when two Household Division Footguards drill sergeants travelled to Shilo in the prairie province of Manitoba, home to the RRCA. They provided an introduction to the changing of the guard sequences and intensive drill square training over a fortnight.

Warrant Officer Class Two Dwain Oliver of the Grenadier Guards, one of the instructors said, “ Because they are a regiment that doesn’t do big parades, they have put a lot of hard work in. Their progression has been really good, and the professionalism of their soldiers has been first class which has helped them come from where they were to their exceptional standard today.”   

To march onto the forecourt of Buckingham Palace knowing behind you is the Royal Family and in front, thousands of tourists on a daily basis pointing cameras and phones at you is not for the faint-hearted, as the Canadian Guard Commander, Major Michael Crosier pointed out. “We have to stay focused, there’ll be a few nerves to start with and a lot of excitement. Everyone is looking forward to getting out there. This is an opportunity for our soldiers to showcase our Regiment on the international stage which is an exceptional privilege.”

Having successfully completed their fit for role inspection the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery mounted their first guard on Monday 4th August at Buckingham and St James’s Palaces, Windsor Castle and The Tower of London, and will continue throughout October.