Soldiers from Wiltshire based 4 Armoured Close Support Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (4REME) like to get their hands dirty, repairing the British Army’s vehicles, from tanks to earth moving equipment. Today, however, the mechanics were immaculate on parade at Wellington Barracks, London, proving they can also reach the high standards required to perform upcoming Public Duties for the Royal family.
A rigorous inspection of ceremonial uniform and drill sequences was carried out by the Household Division’s senior officers at Wellington Barracks. The full company of almost a hundred service personnel were scrutinised for excellence of bearing, discipline, accuracy of step and orders, as well as security elements, before they were declared fit for role and could commence their duties as Queen’s Guards at royal residences in London and Windsor.
It is a huge privilege for us to be providing a ceremonial guard to Her Majesty The Queen Major John Vance
This is a proud moment for the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers as the Tidworth Battalion is the first REME sub-unit to conduct State Ceremonial Public Duties since 1992, almost thirty years ago.
In an effort to share the experience across the Corps, a platoon of 22 personnel from both 3 and 6 Battalion REME have joined a further two platoons and a Company Headquarters from 4 Battalion REME to make up the new complement of Queen’s Guards in their distinctive red striped blue trousers.
Their first Queen’s Guard will be at Buckingham Palace on Monday 13 September. Over the next two and a half months, the 93 REME soldiers will be guarding the Tower of London, St James Palace, Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace.
Speaking about the honour of the task, Major John Vance who commands the REME Company, and will be the Captain of The Queen’s Guard, said “It is a huge privilege for us to be providing a ceremonial guard to Her Majesty The Queen. Following intensive training the whole team are now ready and excited to step out in front of the public for this unique task”.
The REME soldiers are skilled in seven different trades: Vehicle Mechanic, Recovery Mechanic, Metalsmith, Armourer, Electronics Technician, Technical Support Specialist, Avionics Technician and Aircraft Technician. Before conducting Public Duties, the Company spent three months in Sennelager, Germany fixing a variety of armoured and wheeled vehicles such as the Challenger 2 Battle Tanks and Bulldog Armoured Personnel Carriers, to ensure British Army units serving in Estonia had full capability.
“It is such a different role from my usual job as a Metalsmith,” said Lance Corporal Shaun Pimlott, for whom Monday will be his first Guard, “But it is an absolute honour to represent our Corps and Army in this way.”
REME Soldiers are consistently deployed wherever the British Army is held to ensure that military vehicles and other equipment works whenever it is needed.
In a once in a lifetime opportunity, these REME soldiers have enjoyed a complete change of routine in being chosen to spend much of the last six weeks getting them to the standard required to guard the Royal residences. As well as annual mandatory training which ensures every soldier is trained for the real time security threat, there have been intensive drill periods delivered by Warrant Officer Class 2 Dianne Miller and ceremonial experts from the Coldstream Guards.
Lieutenant Emile Ramsay, who has followed the training from beginning to end said: “The training has been hard. To make such a dramatic change in our working days has required a lot of effort from every individual, and they have shown real determination from the very start, which shows the enthusiasm these soldiers have to conduct the duty.
“The achievement of passing the fit for role inspection cannot be underestimated. The majority of REME soldiers will never have done drill with a rifle before. Due to the restrictions imposed by COVID those who most recently joined the Army didn’t have passing out parades. So to go from zero to ceremonial excellence in a matter of a few months is impressive indeed and an indicator of their all-round agility, adaptability and capability as soldiers”.
Musical support will be provided during the REME’s forthcoming changing of the guard ceremonies by the British Army Band Tidworth who were also subject to inspection today. The ringing hammers of the REME tradesmen in their normal day to day role, will be replaced with the steady drumbeat of the band on parade, keeping everyone to time with an accuracy every engineer will appreciate!
Usually the high-profile duties of the Queen’s Guard are carried out by a regiment of Foot Guards who are accompanied on the ceremony of changing of the guard by their regimental band. To allow the Foot Guards to undertake vital operational training or deployments, from time to time their iconic ceremonial role is taken by other units from the UK and Commonwealth forces for whom it is always regarded as a huge honour.
While the recent return of the public duties is a great moment for all involved, while the threat of COVID persists, we do not want to encourage large crowds. This is an event which tourists are attracted to and they are asked to take the appropriate measures to keep themselves and others safe. We would encourage the public to consider taking a rapid lateral flow test if they wish to travel to see the ceremony in person, just as they would before going to any major event or attraction. Please carry and use hand sanitisers whenever possible. We would encourage face coverings in busy areas to protect themselves and others. If anyone has any symptoms of COVID-19, they should not come to the Changing of the Guard.