Wednesday, 25 July 2007

"Guarding the Queen" - The Grenadier Guards

Last night we were treated by ITV to the second of three parts of a programme "Guarding the Queen" showcasing the Grenadier Guards whose job it is to guard the Queen and her palaces whilst at the same time being fit and ready to enter into battle wherever they may be required. At the moment that means active tours in Afghanistan. The Grenadier Guards are the most senior infantry regiment in the British Army and they are also one of the oldest, celebrating their 350th anniversary last year, during which time there have been ten kings and three queens.

We saw the Guards parading in their bearskins and winter dress of thick blue coats which are exchanged for scarlet red jackets in the summer. The then Home Secretary David Blunkett chose a slight change of colour for the jackets requiring an expense of £300,000 to hand-tailor new jackets. Question: How does a blind man choose a new shade of red? The difference between the old and new was certainly not obvious on our TV.

The Guards prepared for the State Visit of the Prime Minister of Ghana and also for the Queen's Birthday Parade. The new musical director prepared the playing of both anthems to finish at precisely the same moment as the Queen's carriage came to a halt. Such precision and such attention to detail is admirable. There is no sloppiness in the British Army. It must be right and it must be perfect. The Queen is the first to notice anyone slightly out of step or with a poor fitting uniform.

Regimental Adjutant Conway Seymour, a Grenadier for 46 years, says: "Of all the great heroes, there's none that can compare with the British Grenadiers." He reluctantly retired after being the fourth generation Guard in his family. The men put on a special musical march for him including "Auld Lang Syne" which nearly brought a tear to his eye. Although band musicians, these soldiers must also be fit and took part in the same drills as the soldiers preparing for active duty.

The Changing of the Guard continues to be one of Britain's top tourist attractions. As the Guards prepared, their Commander told them their orders would be obstructed by cheers of tourists and their sight by camera flashes.

For those chosen for active service in Afghanistan, it was a period of intense training and preparation. We saw them in a mock battle against the Taliban. The aim of their mission will be to assist the Afghan National Army in defeating the Taliban. By stabilising the country they hope to win over hearts and minds and reconstruct a nation ravaged by war. Over 50 British soldiers have lost their lives there with hundreds seriously injured so the stakes are high.

The message was that they had a job to do although privately the troops must have mixed emotions, especially at the point of no return when they collect their battle uniform and supplies.

My friend's daughter is joining the Guards shortly with an anticipated tour in Afghanistan so the programme was of personal interest.

Antonia Stuart-James is an English Hypnotherapist in Belgium helping people make positive change in their lives.

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