Irish Guards form two new Companies with historic links for future role

As part of the Army’s modernisation programme ‘Future Soldier’, two new Foot Guards Public Duties Companies (PDCs), are being formed, resurrecting the traditions and ethos of the historic and battle honoured 2nd Battalion Irish Guards.

As part of the Army’s modernisation programme ‘Future Soldier’, two new Foot Guards Public Duties Companies (PDCs), are being formed, resurrecting the traditions and ethos of the historic and battle honoured 2nd Battalion Irish Guards.

The 2nd Battalion was placed into suspended animation in 1947 but now two new Public Duties Companies, Number 9 Company Irish Guards and Number 12 Company Irish Guards, will ‘reactivate’ its traditions and spirit.

I am confident that the attention to detail and skill that Number 12 Company will exhibit are also the attributes that they, and other members of the Household Division, will demonstrate on operational service around the world Major General Christopher Ghika CBE, General Officer Commanding London District and Major General Commanding the Household Division

The two new Guards companies will conduct ceremonial duties alongside the three existing Public Duties Companies that represent their own respective 2nd Battalions: Nijmegen Company Grenadier Guards, Number 7 Company Coldstream Guards and F Company Scots Guards.

Future Soldier

In 2021 the Government released the Integrated Review which outlined how the Armed Forces would adapt and modernise to face developing worldwide threats.  Out of this the British Army’s radical transformation plan, ‘Future Soldier’, was produced.

Future Soldier and a series of subsequent plans detail how the Army will amend its force structure to deal with a changed operating environment caused by, among other issues, the Russian aggression in Ukraine and the impact of technology on the future battlefield.  

In this way, the Army will be more able to counter threats to worldwide peace and stability.

Taking the lead

As part of these changes, the 1st Battalion Irish Guards was assigned to the 11th Security Force Assistance Brigade, who are specialists in delivering training to build the military capabilities of our allies and partners, most notably taking the lead in training the Armed Forces of Ukraine across the UK in recent weeks. 

This change to ‘specialised infantry’ required a restructuring of the 1st Battalion and released workforce to create two new Public Duties Companies.

State Ceremonial

These two new companies will be used for State Ceremonial and Public Duties such as conducting Queen’s Guard at Buckingham Palace, St James’ Palace, Windsor Castle and the Tower of London as well as conducting various State Ceremonial events such as Guards of Honour for visiting foreign officials as well as State Visits.

Number 12 Company will be the first to step out of Wellington Barracks to take over the responsibility for the Queen’s Guard at Buckingham Palace on the 2nd of September whilst Number 9 Company are conducting operations in the South Atlantic as the Falkland Islands Roulement Infantry Company until they return to the UK in November.

The first Irish Guards Public Duties Company

Major General Christopher Ghika CBE, General Officer Commanding London District and Major General Commanding the Household Division said:  “I am delighted to see this first Queen’s Guard by Number 12 Company Irish Guards marking the first duty performed by an Irish Guards Public Duties Company. 

"It marks a departure for the Regiment who have not, up to this point, had a Public Duties Company and also the first step in the implementation of the Future Soldier programme in London District. 

 “I am confident that the attention to detail and skill that Number 12 Company will exhibit are also the attributes that they, and other members of the Household Division, will demonstrate on operational service around the world” 

For Major Jonathan Cassidy, Officer Commanding Number 12 Company Irish Guards the opportunity to lead this new Public Duties Company is a special one, he said: “I am honoured to be given the opportunity to command Number 12 Company after serving with the Irish Guards for 28 years.”

Honing skills for future operations

Number 9 and Number 12 Company will hone the discipline and skills of new Irish Guardsmen fresh out of the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick before the young soldiers progress to the 1st Battalion Irish Guards, ready to serve in combat operations around the world.

The long hours spent conducting perfectly timed drill and the attention to detail required in every aspect of their uniforms is often credited as the reason why the Guardsmen make for such world-renowned frontline infantry soldiers.

Rudyard Kipling and the First World War

The 2nd Battalion Irish Guards boasts many battle honours. Originally formed in 1915 during World War 1 the Battalion first saw action at the Battle of Loos where Second Lieutenant John Kipling (son of the famous poet Rudyard Kipling) was tragically killed assaulting a German position.

In 1916 and 1917, the Battalion fought bravely on the blood-soaked battlefields of The Somme and Passchendaele despite severe casualties.

It participated in the Third Battle of Ypres and Battle of Cambrai before conducting attacks on the Hindenburg line in the final days of the Great War.

After the Armistice, the 2nd Battalion was put into its first bout of suspended animation, waiting and ready to be reactivated when needed.

World War Two - evacuating the Queen of the Netherlands

That day came in 1939, just five months prior to the outbreak of hostilities in Europe in what would become the Second World War.

The 2nd Battalion Irish Guards saw action in the Netherlands as part of a small force sent to protect and evacuate the Dutch government and royalty, eventually evacuating Queen Wilhelmina and the Dutch government to safety in Britain.

Remaining in the UK to train for the next two years, the 2nd Battalion eventually landed in Normandy as part of the Guards Armoured Division in 1944 ready to take part in Operation Goodwood and the Battle for Caen. 

Operation Market Garden

Following the breakout in Normandy, the Irish Guards pushed into northeast Belgium before reaching the Dutch border and taking part as an element of the ground forces in the ambitious plan, Operation Market Garden.

Their mission was to attempt to capture the vital bridges over the River Rhine to enable a rapid allied advance into Germany and a speedy end to the war.

Following Operation Market Garden, the Battalion remained in the Netherlands before seeing heavy action in the Rhineland campaign until the eventual signing of the German surrender in 1945.

The end of the Second World War resulted in the downsizing of the British Army with the 2nd Battalion being placed once more into suspended animation in 1947, but seventy-five years later it is once more primed and ready for action.

Royal connections

HRH The Duke of Cambridge presented the 1st Battalion Irish Guards with new Colours in Windsor Castle earlier this year.

In due course, Number 9 Company and Number 12 Company will be presented with their new Colours (regimental flags) which will be painstakingly hand embroidered in silk and gold threads emblazoned with the battle honours of the 2nd Battalion Irish Guards.

Until then, they will proudly bear the 1st Battalion Irish Guards’ old Colours on parade.

An exciting future beckons

Most importantly, the Irish Guards’ Regimental Mascot, Irish Wolfhound Turlough Mor (affectionately known as Seamus) will lead the Guardsmen of Number 9 Company and Number 12 Company to take up their duties as the Queen’s Guard.

For all the Guardsmen of the Irish Guards, an exciting future beckons, with new versatile roles available around the world, whilst still respecting and honouring the traditions of those who have gone before.