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Summer is assured, as the Foot Guards pass their annual ceremonial inspection

Since the clocks changed in October, the Foot Guards and Bands of the Household Division have braved the Winter chill on guard in their cosy Atholl grey Great Coats. They've been spotted briefly on parade at Wellington Barracks in their iconic scarlet tunics for the first time, is it Summer already?

Sadly it was just a temporary splash of colour, the frosts aren’t done yet!

The spectacular occasion was the Guards' Public Duties Companies' annual inspection by the General Officer Commanding the Household Division, Major General James Bowder.

The Major General requires the assurance that his ceremonial troops consistently meet the exacting standards necessary for the demands of their unique role as King’s Guards, and the additional State Ceremonial requirements of the coming year.

The Guards are always under a global spotlight

From King’s Guard duties to State Visits and defence diplomatic engagements, from the State Opening of Parliament, to The King’s Birthday Parade, the Guards' ceremonial summer uniforms, bearing, standard of drill and weapons handling must be immaculate.

Looking good isn’t enough, however to pass this rigorous test. Soldiers and officers were also quizzed on their military history, and the Officers were tested on their ability to carry out their own inspections!

Spot the deliberate mistake!

Two Guardsmen were selected from each Company and their uniforms were deliberately "rigged" with minor errors of turnout to test the Officers' abilities to spot and correct faults before the Guard Mount.

Number 9 Company Irish Guards and The Band of the Irish Guards were first to be inspected, closely followed by Number 12 Company Irish Guards with their Irish Wolfhound Mascot, Turlough Mor (Seamus), the Drums and Pipes.

The three year old Mascot was wearing the new coat tailored for him for the Coronation.

Next under the spotlight was Number 7 Company Coldstream Guards and the Band of the Coldstream Guards. F Company Scots Guards were inspected with their regimental band and finally it was the turn of Nijmegen Company Grenadier Guards.  

It's a whole team effort

The inspection parade is the culmination of weeks of hard work by the military tailors, ordinary soldiers who will have passed their apprenticeships to become tailors equal to the finest in London.

They will have had to alter every uniform to a perfect fit, remount medals, add badges of rank, sew on buttons and regimental symbols with acute accuracy.

Guardsmen will have been waxing and bulling (polishing) their boots for weeks to build up that impressive parade gloss shine.  Even the sole of the boot is inspected and expected to be clinically clean, the metal studs gleaming.

Bearskins will have been groomed and cleaned, curb chains, buttons and belt buckles polished so the brass has a silver sheen, white belts will have been whitened so they glow.

Attention to detail ultimately is lifesaving

It’s this exceptional attention to detail and discipline that separates the Guards from the rest of the infantry. A discipline which translates into exceptional ability on the battlefield where attention to detail and maintenance of personal equipment can mean the difference between life and death.

The Public Duties Companies match their ceremonial excellence with operational capability throughout the year.

As well as delivering faultless ceremonial support to public duties and defence diplomacy in London and Windsor, the soldiers regularly deploy teams to the Falkland Islands, Kenya, Jamaica and Belize improving their operational infantry skills in challenging terrain.

Every Company must pass or retake till they do

Passing the Major General’s inspection is expected but not guaranteed: the bar is set phenomenally high! But every company has practised and prepared for this day, and barring unforeseen disasters, success is assured.

The Guards can look forward to what promises to be a spectacular summer, but for now, the scarlet tunics will be carefully packed away in readiness until the clocks go forward for Summer.

As the March winds blew icy gusts, everyone was glad to be back in Greatcoats again!

You will be able to see all the Household Division Bands and the Public Duties Companies parading in their scarlet tunics when they step out in support of Number 9 Company Irish Guards who will troop their Colour on The King’s Birthday Parade in June.