The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery have replaced the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment in their duties as the Queen’s Life Guard at Horse Guards Parade providing the Troopers of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment time for summer leave.
For many of the new Gunners of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, they will have been watching the heatwave and thinking about their annual time in role as Queen’s Life Guard with trepidation. Fortunately for those taking over from the Life Guards of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, the weather has cooled down slightly allowing the mounted Gunners time to get used to their new role as dismounted and mounted sentries at Horse Guards in Whitehall.
I’ll be looking at each and every Gunner to ensure they are looking professional in both their drill and uniform, for many of them this will be their first time working independently instead of as a team so it is important that they feel confident and are inspected thoroughly. SERGEANT JAMES FROST,
MASTER FARRIER AND NEW GUARD COMMANDER
Since the Restoration of King Charles in 1660, mounted troops have guarded Horse Guards as the official entrance to the Palace of Whitehall. Legend says that the mounted guards never received the duty to stand down their daily vigil even after the Palace was burnt down in 1698 and have continued their unbroken, loyal duty every day since then. This service is normally carried out by either the Blues and Royals or Life Guards of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment based out of Knightsbridge, but for one month every year they are relieved by the mounted Gunners of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery to provide a well-earned rest for both the Troopers and horses of the Household Cavalry.
The Gunners of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery will provide a stunning contrast to the gleaming breastplates and plumes of the normally present Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment. The breastplates are replaced with golden brocade which was originally designed to protect the chest whilst the buttons are designed to look like musket balls and the raised collars are high to protect the neck and throat from sword slashes. Atop their head sits a busby with white ostrich feather plume, a golden lanyard is looped around the busby and holds up a red busby bag, which was used during the Napoleonic era to hold snacks and dried fruit!
Even the horses will look different, gone are the black chargers of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment who will be out in the fields enjoying a well earned rest. Instead, smaller Irish draught horses in a variety of colours from bright bay to black can be seen, these horses are more used to pulling their six First World War era 13 pound field guns as part of a team than standing still for hours at a time in front of crowds of tourists but always manage to cope stoically and with discipline.
It’s a huge honour to take part in this centuries old tradition and something which the King’s Troop doesn’t do very often. It’s a great experience for the soldiers to do something different and taking over Queen’s Life Guard takes a lot of preparation. It puts the soldiers out of their comfort zone as the emphasis is on the individual while normally everything we do in the King’s Troop is part of a team. Major Fran Sykes, Commanding Officer, King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery
Queen’s Life Guard is looked forward to as a personal challenge by many of the Gunners, although used to keeping their uniform, drill and horsemanship at the highest standard, what makes the most difference for the Gunners is the idea of working independently. In their normal ceremonial roles, be it conducting Royal Gun Salutes or the Musical Drive, the Gunners are used to working as part of a well-rehearsed and precise team but on Queen’s Life Guards they are expected to work solo as they will be on their own on sentry duty for each of their hour long duties. For many, this can bring added pressure and a bit of nerves but on the day not a single tremble could be seen as the Gunners rode down the Mall, swords shining in the sunlight.
Conducting Queen’s Life Guard is reported to be good training for soldiers, helping to develop their discipline and mental fortitude to get through the long hours in the sun. It also provides the Gunners with a sense of pride and history, being able to conduct this historic tradition in front of baying crowds. Even with these positives, many of the Gunners will be looking forward to getting out of the sun and having a well earned break once their month long role comes to an end.