Welsh units reflect on their proud history with Queen Elizabeth II and the new King

Members of the three Regular Welsh regiments have spoken of their proud and distinguished history and relationship with both Queen Elizabeth II and King Charles III.

Her Majesty was Colonel-in-Chief of both The Royal Welsh and the Foot Guards, of which 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, based in Windsor, are a part. 

The Royal Welsh is made up of 1st Battalion, the Regular infantry unit (the longest-serving armoured infantry battalion in the British Army) based in Tidworth, Wiltshire, and the Reserve 3rd Battalion, based at Maindy Barracks in Cardiff.

The Queen was Colonel-in-Chief of the antecedent Royal Welch Fusiliers from 1953 to 2006, when an amalgamation ceremony with The Royal Regiment of Wales (24th/41st Foot) saw their renaming as The Royal Welsh.

The Queen visited the Regiment on several occasions since the amalgamation. In June 2015, for the Presentation of New Colours ceremony at the then-called Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, with her most recent visit to the 1st Battalion in 2017 in Tidworth, for the presentation of leeks on St David’s Day.

Chris Kilmister, Regimental Secretary of The Royal Welsh, said: “There was an immediate, immense feeling of sadness right across the whole of The Royal Welsh Regimental family when we learned of Her Majesty The Queen’s passing.

“She was ever present in our lives and there was an enduring bond that existed between her and the whole of the Armed Forces. That bond will continue with His Majesty King Charles III and we will support him in everything he does.”

A lot of attention is generated whenever The Royal Welsh recruit their Regimental Goats and, traditionally, Her Majesty’s approval would need to be sought in order for the process to take place.

1st Battalion Welsh Guards, based in Windsor, have both a ceremonial role as guardians of the Royal Palaces as part of the Household Division, as well as a combat role, with most recent deployments on Operation Shader in Iraq and on exercises across the world.

The Queen has presented new colours to the Regiment on no less than five occasions since 1953, the most recent being at Windsor Castle in 2015 which coincided with the Welsh Guards’ Centenary year.

Colonel Tom Bonas, the Regimental Adjutant, said Welsh Guardsmen, who are involved in routelining duties in Cardiff, will also play a part in London in the coming days and had an “unshakeable bond” with the Queen.

He said: “The soldiers will wear Household Division guard order during the period of vigil and throughout the funeral procession, in the time of a very sad occasion when we reflect on the loss of Her Majesty the Queen.

“These are difficult times for us but we know we have important duties to carry out, and we will do so professionally with an immense sense of pride.”

The Household Division guard order constitutes a red tunic, adorned with gold thread for officers and warrant officers, a bearskin cap and a sword or rifle.

Welsh Guardsmen can be distinguished by their tunic buttons, arranged in rows of five. This denotes their place as the fifth Regiment of Foot Guards, the last to be raised by King George V in February 1915.

On their tunic collars, Welsh Guardsmen wear a leek. This is the cap badge of the Welsh Guards, worn since the formation. Its origins extend to the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 when Henry V wore a leek, a mark of his Welsh origin and pride in his Welsh soldiers

Col Bonas said: “His Majesty King Charles III became Regimental Colonel of the Welsh Guards in 1975 and remains so today. His proud affiliation with the Regiment sees him regularly conduct private and public audiences both with the Regiment and the 1st Battalion.

“Most recently, His Majesty, as Prince of Wales, awarded Operation Shader medals to The Prince of Wales’s Company upon their return from Iraq and the Queen presented new Colours the 1st Battalion in 2015 at a ceremony in Windsor Castle. This marked the centenary of the Regiment.”

Brigadier Alan Richmond OBE, Colonel of 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards (The Welsh Cavalry) based in Norfolk, said: “All members of the QDG family were deeply saddened to hear of the death of Her Majesty The Queen, whom the Regiment has served with unswerving loyalty for so many years. 

“Our connection to Her Majesty ran deep and included a more personal connection when her daughter, Princess Anne married a QDG officer, Captain Mark Phillips in 1973; and over 40 members of the Regiment were involved in the Royal Wedding at Westminster Abbey. 

“More recently, the Regiment was privileged to provide the Royal Guard of Honour at Her Majesty’s official opening of the Welsh Assembly in 2016.

“His Majesty King Charles III’s relationship with the Queen’s Dragoon Guards is incredibly strong.  He succeeded his beloved grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, as the Regiment’s Colonel-in-Chief in 2003 and has taken a very close interest in his Regiment ever since. 

“As Wales’s cavalry regiment, there were many occasions where he, as Prince of Wales, came into contact with his Regiment enabling him to speak to serving members, its veterans and family members. 

“He has been with QDG at significant moments in its history, including a parade in Cardiff Castle marking the 50th anniversary of our formation (from the 1959 amalgamation of 1st King’s Dragoon Guards and The Queen’s Bays), the opening of our museum in Cardiff Castle and the laying up of our Standard in our spiritual home, Llandaff Cathedral. 

“He has invited members of the Regiment to receive campaign medals at Clarence House and most recently reviewed the Regiment at a parade in Cardiff marking its homecoming from its UN Peacekeeping tours in Mali in July 2022.

“It is worth noting that the last time the Regiment had a serving monarch as its Colonel-in-Chief was when The Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary was Colonel-in-Chief of 1st King’s Dragoon Guards 1896-1914.”

Brigadier Andrew Dawes CBE, Commander 160th (Welsh) Brigade, and head of the Army in Wales based in Brecon, said: “It is with profound sadness that on behalf of the Army in Wales, I offer sincere condolences to His Majesty The King and The Royal Family at this saddest of times. 

“Her Majesty was beloved beyond words by Her Army in Wales. The Queen has been our constant and shining light for so long. She set the finest example of servant leadership that has inspired generations of soldiers and officers. It will continue to inspire us. God save The King.”