British Army’s Household Division delivers magnificent spectacle for The King, the Nation, and the World

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Members of the Household Division, including the regimental Irish Wolfhound mascot Turlough Mor, are seen here in London today (15/06/2024) taking part in King’s Birthday Parade. Photographer: Sgt Donald C Todd. UK MOD © Crown copyright 2024. MOD Crown Copyright News / Editorial Licence.

After weeks of gruelling rehearsal and painstaking preparation, 242 military working horses, 250 military musicians, 40 pipers and drummers, an extremely large dog, and more than a thousand dual role soldiers of the British Army’s Household Division delivered a magnificent spectacle for The King, the Nation, and the World in London on Saturday 15th June.

The King’s Birthday Parade is a gift from the British Army’s Household Division to His Majesty on the occasion of The King’s official birthday.

Held traditionally on the second Saturday in June, regardless of the Sovereign’s actual date of birth, the parade is an opportunity for The Household Division to demonstrate their professional excellence and loyalty to the Crown.

Broadcast globally, and with an audience of millions, the parade is also the nation’s most engaging and potent symbol of soft power to our allies and our enemies.

Image of His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Queen, seen here in the Royal Carriage arriving at House Guards Parade for the King’s Birthday Parade in London today (15/06/2024). Photographer: Sgt Ben Beale UK MOD © Crown copyright 2024. MOD Crown Copyright News / Editorial Licence.

Astonishingly, the majority of those on parade were aged 18-25, recent recruits with literally just a few months of experience of Army life, who were performing something extraordinary at the same time as training to be fierce fighting soldiers to protect the nation and our interests.

During the parade, the King’s Colour (Regimental flag) was “Trooped”, that is: carried aloft by one of the Regiment’s most junior Officers through the ranks of soldiers. This ceremony in ancient times would have enabled soldiers to familiarise themselves with the Colour they would need to rally to for safety, or to regroup, amidst the melee and chaos of battle. 

The honour to Troop their Colour rotates through the five regiments of Foot Guards, and this year (2024) it lay with Number 9 Company Irish Guards. The King’s Colour was presented by His Majesty to the Irish Guards at a special ceremony in Windsor Castle on Monday. 

The Irish Guards were raised by Queen Victoria in 1900 and have provided almost 125 years of loyal service to the Monarchy and the nation. This was however the first time that one of the Irish Guards Public Duties Companies Trooped Their Colour on a Sovereign’s Birthday Parade and the first time that the Irish Guards have trooped in front of The King. The Ensign whose responsibility it was to troop the Colour today was Lieutenant Harry Winterbottom, 25, from London.

Image of HRH The Princess of Wales, seen here in the Royal Carriage arriving at House Guards Parade for the King’s Birthday Parade in London today (15/06/2024). Photographer: Sgt Ben Beale UK MOD © Crown copyright 2024. MOD Crown Copyright News / Editorial Licence.

Number 9 and Number 12 Irish Guards Public Duties Companies were formed in September 2022 in the final days of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Reign.

The Irish Guards provide the Army’s global Security Force Assistance capability. For the past two years Irish Guardsmen have been among the most heavily committed of British Army Infantry soldiers on Operations. No 9 Coy has deployed to the Falkland Islands as part of the Roulement Infantry Company and the 1st Battalion is currently tasked across the globe on a range of Security Force Assistance tasks and multinational exercises from the Horn of Africa to the swamps of Louisiana, strengthening capabilities and relationships with allied nations and partner forces.

Most deployments have been to Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria. But tasks have also seen teams deploy to Egypt, Burundi and Mozambique. The Irish Guards were one of the lead regiments in 2023 providing training to Ukrainian recruits to gain the infantry skills they need to defend their homeland. In the past year the Irish Guards have deployed 17 times to six countries.

The King is the Colonel in Chief of the seven Guards regiments, seeing them regularly through their ceremonial role in guarding the Royal Palaces. 

Image of His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Queen, seen here at House Guards Parade for the King’s Birthday Parade in London today (15/06/2024). Photographer: Sgt Donald C Todd UK MOD © Crown copyright 2024. MOD Crown Copyright News / Editorial Licence.

Recognisable on ceremonial operations by the St Patrick’s blue of the plumes in their bearskins, the Irish Guards traditionally comprise troops from the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Liverpool and Birmingham, as well as Fiji, the wider Commonwealth and the rest of the UK. 

The Irish Guards are alone amongst the Household Division in having a Regimental Mascot, an Irish Wolfhound. He will take his place at the front of the Regiment and lead the Band of the Irish Guards, and the Drums and Pipes of the Irish Guards onto Horse Guards parade.

All seven regiments of the Household Division will be taking part with their Regimental Bands. This includes the five regiments of the Foot Guards: The Grenadier Guards, The Coldstream Guards, The Scots Guards, The Irish Guards, The Welsh Guards, the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment made up of The Life Guards and The Blues and Royals who will provide the Sovereign’s Escort, the mounted Band of the Household Cavalry, and the massed Foot Guards bands. 

Members of the Household Division, including the regimental Irish Wolfhound mascot Turlough Mor, are seen here in London today (15/06/2024) taking part in King’s Birthday Parade. Photographer: Sgt Donald C Todd UK MOD © Crown copyright 2024. MOD Crown Copyright News / Editorial Licence.

The music which kept the parade precise and on time had a distinctly Irish theme. As well as familiar Celtic folk tunes, there was new music composed specifically for this parade, such as The Ballyragget, performed in the Massed Band’s quick troop. This is named after a 2nd Battalion Irish Guards tank which, during WW2 Operation Goodwood 80 years ago, prevented a German Tiger II tank from firing on allied positions by ramming it with such force it was put out of action. The clash of tanks is a visual and audible highlight of the music shown by a fierce crash of drums and cymbals.

After the parade on Horse Guards, the Irish Guards marched up The Mall as part of the Royal Procession. The Trooping of their Colour completed, their duties were far from over. They immediately took over responsibility as the new King’s Guard at Buckingham Palace for the next 24 hours.

The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery fired the official birthday Gun Salute of 41 Guns in the Green Park at 1252hrs.  On the other side of London at the same time, the Honourable Artillery Company fired a 62 round Gun Salute from the Tower of London. 

At 1pm a tri-service flypast flew down The Mall and over Buckingham Palace where members of the Royal family appeared with His Majesty The King on the Balcony to watch.

The annual event of Trooping of the Colour has marked the official birthday of the British Sovereign for more than 260 years, a reassuring touchstone of stability in an ever changing, often uncertain world. 

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