The presence of The Prince and Princess of Wales at the Irish Guards Saint Patrick’s Day parade is a familiar honour, but this year was uniquely different!
The national saint’s day is a highlight of the Irish Guards’ calendar where all generations gather for a regimental celebration, but to witness the formal handover of responsibilities of Regimental Colonel from The Prince of Wales to his wife, The Princess of Wales, made this year’s event extra special.
The Princess had joined the Regiment in her new role last week in near Arctic conditions on Salisbury Plain. There she witnessed and took part in a dramatic simulated battlefield casualty extraction training exercise. But the ceremonial handover of the Colonelcy took place today in Aldershot.
Lieutenant Colonel James Aldridge MBE, Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion Irish Guards said:
“We are enormously grateful to HRH The Prince of Wales for his support for over eleven years, including through operational tours to Afghanistan, Iraq, South Sudan, and Cyprus, three Queen’s Birthday Parades, and our Presentation of New Colours last year.
We are enormously grateful to HRH The Prince of Wales for his support for over eleven years Lieutenant Colonel James Aldridge MBE,
1st Battalion Irish Guards
"We offer a very warm welcome to HRH The Princess of Wales, who is of course no stranger having handed out Shamrock on St Patrick’s Day Parades throughout her husband’s Colonelcy, and who has already shown her commitment visiting Irish Guards training teams on Salisbury Plain in the snow last week.”
This year’s celebrations also marked the first coming together of all the elements of the newly re-roled Irish Guards Regiment.
Warrant Officer Class One Swain, the Regimental Sergeant Major, 1st Battalion Irish Guards said:
“St Patrick’s Day is a highlight each year for members of the Irish Guards and is a day that we share with our own families as well as the wider Regimental family. The parade looks different this year with Irish Guardsmen from both the 1st Battalion and the Public Duties Companies on parade together.
"The former are in field army service dress and the latter are sporting our famous scarlet red tunics and blue plume adorned bearskins; truly a visual representation of the dual-role soldiers the Irish Guards are famed to be.”
St Patrick’s Day is a highlight each year for members of the Irish Guards Warrant Officer Class One Swain
Regimental Sergeant Major
1st Battalion Irish Guards
For soldiers in the Irish Guards’ newly formed Public Duties Companies, Number 9 Company Irish Guards and Number 12 Company Irish Guards, this was their first ever St Patrick’s Day Parade with the 1st Battalion Irish Guards, the Irish Guards Association, and cadets.
Led by their Irish Wolfhound Mascot, Seamus, his handler, Drummer Adam Walsh, and the Band of the Irish Guards conducted by Captain Peter Brydon, and led by Drum Major Paul Carson, the Irish Guards marched proudly onto the Parade Square at Mons Barracks.
While the PDCs are now regularly seen Changing the Guard at the Royal Palaces in London and Windsor, the 1st Battalion has come straight from operational duties as part of the British Army’s 11th Security Force Assistance Brigade.
It is deployed around the world, training, advising, and assisting allied foreign forces, enhancing their capacity and capabilities to prevent conflict and instil resilience at an early stage when danger threatens. Many are presently committed to providing basic infantry training to Ukrainian Armed Forces in the UK.
After all the soldiers on parade gave a Royal Salute, Her Royal Highness stepped forward to present sprigs of shamrock to Officers and Warrant Officers, who then issued the shamrock along the ranks for the soldiers to wear on their uniforms. The final sprig was firmly attached to the canine Mascot’s silver collar by Her Royal Highness who gave him a friendly pat.
Their Royal Highnesses each made speeches, one of thanks and farewell, the other of dedication and promise.
The Irish Guards removed their caps and gave a rousing three cheers to the Prince of Wales and then another to their new Colonel, The Princess of Wales.
The parade concluded with a march-past where Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales, the Irish Guards new Royal Colonel, took the salute for the first time.
After the parade, The Prince and Princess sat for official Officers' and Sergeants’ Mess photographs and met soldiers and their families.
During the visit the Prince and Princess were shown a new regimental painting of the Irish Guards by artist Louise Pragnell, which was painted this year in the state rooms of the Royal Hospital Chelsea and includes the Regimental Mascot, Turlough Mor (Seamus).
The Prince and Princess presented Medals for Long Service and Good Conduct to six Irish Guardsmen and a special Joint Commanders’ Commendation to Captain Chris O’Neill, 41, from Birmingham for his work assuring the training that the Irish Guards were delivering to the Ukrainian Armed Forces in Ukraine and overseeing the safe extraction from the country just prior to the Russian invasion.
He said: “When the Russians invaded, I felt gutted. I’m proud that the Irish Guards are training the Ukrainians again as part of the international training team in the UK. I’m the Career management Officer for the Battalion now so no longer part of that role, but I left a piece of myself in Ukraine, and I’d love to go back and visit when the war’s over”.
Finally, The Prince and Princess visited the Guardsman's lunch where the longest-serving Guardsman in the Battalion, Guardsman Minnis, proposed a toast to Their Royal Highnesses and thanked their new Royal Colonel for presenting the gift of shamrock.
It is easy to distinguish between the five Regiments of Foot Guards as the buttons on the tunics are spaced to reflect their order of seniority. The Irish Guards have buttons arranged in groups of four. When on ceremonial parade their bearskins have a blue plume which in keeping with their origins was taken from the sash of the Order of St Patrick.
Formed in April 1900 by order of HRH Queen Victoria, the Irish Guards played a major part in both World Wars, winning a total of six Victoria Crosses.