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New documentary: The Queen’s Guards – A Year in Service

On the eve of Her Majesty The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Year, the Army granted Channel 5 privileged access to the soldiers and officers of the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards during 2020 and 2021. Their cameras have captured a unique insight into what life is like in the oldest continuously serving regiment in the British Army.

Over five episodes, starting tonight at 8pm, we follow and get to know recruits, guardsmen and officers throughout their toughest year on record, as they fulfil their ceremonial duties from Wellington Barracks to Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London and at some of the biggest Royal events of the last decade.

It is an absolute privilege to protect the longest reigning monarch of the UK, and the whole Royal Family Guardsman Lubin

The series follows aspiring trainee guardsmen at the Army’s Infantry Training Centre in Catterick, where all infantry soldiers undergo the training that will see them become some of the best infanteers in the world.

Officer Cadets at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst are also followed through their training, where they will learn to become the leaders of tomorrow, before commissioning.

The Blue Line

Tonight, tune in to episode 1 on Channel 5 at 8pm, as the Coldstream Guards in Windsor, at Battalion Headquarters, are preparing for the most important inspection of the year. They will find out if they’re ready to take on this season’s biggest royal and ceremonial duties, known as going on ‘The Blue Line’.

General Officer Commanding London District, Major General Chris Ghika, who is responsible to Her Majesty for all British Army ceremonial, will be scrutinising everything from drill, to boots, to bearskins, ensuring turnout is immaculate and marching is up to scratch.

With the Queen’s birthday only a matter of months away regimental leaders and London District meet to establish how and where the year's Trooping the Colour will take place. Due to Covid, the parade will be held on the grounds inside Windsor Castle.

It’s a complicated and unique parade and nothing can be left to chance. The responsibility and privilege of getting it right falls to Lieutenant Colonel David Marsham. It’s the first time he will lead a major Royal ceremony, let alone Trooping the Colour. 

In Catterick aspiring guardsmen are midway through one of the toughest infantry training courses in the world. Alongside learning how to fight, trainees need to master the art of drill and marching. It’s what guardsmen are famous for and the standards are extremely high.

Let’s meet…

Trainee Guardsman Ki-Manni Lubin, aged 21 from St Lucia, has only been in the country a matter of weeks when training begins in 2020. He is keen to make his family proud. “It is an absolute privilege to protect the longest reigning monarch of the UK, and the whole Royal Family,” he said. “I feel like I'm representing my family and my home nation of St Lucia when I put on my tunic and bearskin. It is an honour.”

Trainee Guardsman Rob Cheesbrough, aged 26, hails from Hull. He has followed his father and grandfather into the Coldstream Guards and is keen not to be caught in his father’s shadow (Guardsman Cheesbrough Senior made the rank of Regimental Sergeant Major). He said: “I am extremely proud to serve in the Coldstream Guards and for The Queen. Protecting the Royal Palaces is a real honour and privilege.”

Drummer Luke Wall has been a guardsman for two and a half years. He’s in the Corps of Drums, following in the footsteps of his grandfather and uncle. Luke has played music from a young age so was already an accomplished musician before joining but equally enjoys his role as a machine gunner when not on ‘blue line’ ceremonial duties.

Warrant Officer Class 1 (Garrison Sergeant Major) Vern Stokes, is a well-respected personality in London District. Having joined the Army as a guardsman at the age of 16, WO1 Stokes is Garrison Sergeant Major and one of the most senior soldiers in the British Army. He was instrumental in the design and management of both Prince Philip’s funeral in 2021 and Her Majesty’s Birthday Parade.

Tune in at 8pm tonight (Thursday, 10 Feb) on Channel 5 for the first of five episodes. Also stream on My 5.