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Welsh Guardsmen raise hwyl on the parade square for St David’s Day

There are more than a few hints of Wales at Combermere Barracks in Windsor.

Those passing the entrance will see the Welsh flag flying high and just inside the gates there are patches of daffodils dancing on a winter breeze.

Just a few metres further in there is the thick slate tile emblazoned with "Cymru am Byth": the Welsh Guards motto translating as "Wales Forever".

And the backing track all those emblems of a culture borne in the Valleys is the rousing sound of hundreds of Guardsmen singing on the parade square on St David’s Day.

“No matter where we are in the world, we celebrate this important occasion,” said Major Darren Pridmore, who is the senior serving Welsh Guardsman having clocked his 39th attendance of a St David’s Day parade, having also played an integral part in how the day is shaped over the years.

No matter where we are in the world, we celebrate this important occasion Major Darren Pridmore

“This is what brings us all together, as one, and reminds us of our shared values and rich heritage as a battalion, going all the way back to 1915 when we were first raised on the orders of King George V.”

During the last year the Welsh Guards have been deployed on every continent, with the Prince of Wales’s Company having just returned from a three-months posting in the Falkland Islands.  

Darren said: “While the drumbeat of deployments is constant, the Regiment always ensures St David’s Day is marked properly and with our families and veterans of the Welsh Guards Association in attendance.”

Brigadier Giles Harris DSO OBE, is the Regimental Lieutenant Colonel of the Welsh Guards and is also currently the Commander of Operation Cabrit, the UK’s contribution to NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence in the Baltics. He presented leeks to the troops who then attached them to the brilliantly shining buttons of their Athol grey winter greatcoats.

Numerous recent deployments have seen the Welsh Guards involved in operational training and overseas exercises, including support to the multinational operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq, Kurdistan, Kuwait and Cyprus, combat infantry training in Kenya, Belize, counter poaching operations in Zambia, and providing training to the Ugandan Armed Forces for their UN mission in Somalia.

The battalion has also been involved in training Ukrainian troops in the UK, enabling them to protect their homeland, with the additional honour of Trooping their Colour on His Majesty King Charles III’s Birthday Parade last summer.

Major Andy Campbell, Support Company Commander, said: “St David’s Day is where we forget about how busy we are, being spread to the four winds, and we come together and think about the people we serve with and have served with, renewing old friendships.

“It’s also great to have the Band of the Welsh Guards playing on the parade square here in the barracks too, as they spend a lot of time on duties in London.

The leek is very much part of our fabric, literally, as it’s on our belt buckles, buttons, head dress and falls in line with our Welsh national heritage Major Andy Campbell

“When the battalion was formed more than 100 years ago a number of emblems were considered to mark our identity, such as the dragon or daffodil, but the leek was chosen and it’s very much part of our fabric, literally, as it’s on our belt buckles, buttons, head dress and falls in line with our Welsh national heritage.”

Last year the soldiers were treated to an inaugural visit by their new Royal Colonel, Prince William The Prince of Wales and accompanied by his wife The Princess of Wales.

The Welsh Guards are Light Role Infantry, as well as world-class ceremonial soldiers, guarding the Royal Family and Royal palaces such as Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London and conducting State Ceremonial duties. 

Similar to last year the day also included a Guardsmen verses Lance Corporals rugby match on the Windsor Garrison Sports Pavilion pitch and a curry lunch marquee being set up.

Darren said: “St David’s Day is not only about acknowledging all the recent deployments and looking forward to what the battalion may be tasked with in the months ahead.

“It’s about recognising that shared experience we all have, whether that be a young soldier who’s just come back from the Falklands, or a veteran who I’ve recently spoken to who is 101 years of age and fought in the Battle of Monte Cassino in World War Two.

“It’s about celebrating who we are and also honouring those who have fallen in conflict over the years.

“There are Lance Corporals and Sergeants I now see who are going to go on and be Warrant Officers and have fantastic careers and I’m still going to have that touchpoint with them during occasions such as St David’s Day.

“These are wonderful occasions and sometimes you see people you may not have seen for 20 years and that's why we always look forward to March first, a very significant date in our calendar."

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