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Jungle discipline on parade for His Majesty the King

The dual role of the Household Division’s soldiers could not have been more emphatically demonstrated than in the case of the 106 officers and guardsmen of the Welsh Guards’ Number Two Company who earlier this year were slogging their way through the tropical jungles of Jamaica.

On the 17 June the Welsh Guards will be proudly parading their colours before His Majesty King Charles III and the rest of the Household Division as they troop their colours at the King’s Birthday Parade marking His Majesty’s official birthday for 2023. However, any thoughts of such a colourful and prestigious date in the ceremonial calendar would have been light years away for Number Two Company back in February. As the saying goes, they had one or two crocodiles nearer the canoe to contend with at the time, and given the geography, that old adage lent itself a certain degree of added poignancy!

The jungle is a pretty harsh environment on the body; there are many differing aspects affecting you, mainly the climate – hot humid and tropical that puts extra stress on the body. There is also the flora and fauna: the animals, creatures and also the plants so to complete our training we have to take into account all those different aspects Lieutenant Tom Brown, Welsh Guards

Never mind the button and brass polishing, the meticulous bearskin cap combing or the hours spent bulling up their boots, this was a matter of jungle survival: Navigating through the thick cloying mud, maintaining their wet kit dry kit regime, keeping the jungle’s creepy crawlies at bay, yet still being able to hunt down their enemies close and ‘neutralise’ them. Any soldier who has trained, exercised, or fought in the jungle will tell you that it is the most demanding environment to operate in. To put it succinctly, first you take on the jungle and then your enemy.

Although perhaps two more diverse environments you would struggle to find; in a strange way there are many transferable skills and disciplines common to both the jungles of Jamaica’s Blue Mountains and London’s Horse Guards Parade. As the Welsh Guards’ Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel John Livesey pointed out, “When you are looking at something like Trooping the Colour it might seem quite remote from what we term as the green soldiering skills, but your ability to stand rock steady on a parade despite being very uncomfortable, very hot or very cold is exactly the same as being rock steady in an ambush in the jungle where insects are biting you and it’s either boiling hot or pouring down with rain."

"That same self-discipline, your ability to make sure your kit when you go out on parade is immaculate in London is as important as making sure your kit is in serviceable order under the trees because it is incredibly demanding. If neither are up to the mark, then you will be found out.”

Lieutenant Tom Brown spent much of last year at the British Army’s Jungle Warfare School under the dense canopies of Brunei getting himself trained up to become a Jungle Warfare Instructor ready for his Company’s deployment to Jamaica. “The jungle is a pretty harsh environment on the body; there are many differing aspects affecting you, mainly the climate – hot humid and tropical that puts extra stress on the body. There is also the flora and fauna: the animals, creatures and also the plants so to complete our training we have to take into account all those different aspects.”

On the subject of comparing state ceremonial duties with jungle warfare Tom went on to say, “Guardsmen will always tell you that time spent on the drill square is seldom wasted, but time on the drill square can be quite painful at the same time. The jungle is an amazing environment to be in; it demands discipline, it demands doing the basics right and it demands looking out for each other and those three things are all that we put into practice on the drill square as well. It is magical to troop our colour; it is one of the big things we live for in the Household Division, aside from conducting operations and coming back from Iraq last year, trooping our colour is the epitome of what we aim for as a Household Division soldier. There is no prouder feeling than seeing your colour flying in front of His Majesty the King as it will be this year, especially as it is the first year of His Majesty’s reign.” 

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