Personnel from Inkerman Company Grenadier Guards pose by the Royal Oak at the end of their 150 mile mission (Picture: British Army).
Personnel from Inkerman Company Grenadier Guards pose by the Royal Oak at the end of their 150-mile mission (Picture: British Army).
Army

Grenadier Guards go back to 400-year-old roots on 150-mile march

Personnel from Inkerman Company Grenadier Guards pose by the Royal Oak at the end of their 150 mile mission (Picture: British Army).
Personnel from Inkerman Company Grenadier Guards pose by the Royal Oak at the end of their 150-mile mission (Picture: British Army).

The Grenadier Guards have marched 150 miles to learn about their 400-year-old roots – from their base in Aldershot to the Royal Oak near Boscobel House in Shropshire.

The march formed part of their preparation for their forthcoming Iraq deployment.

Company Commander Major Hugo Cartwright set the challenge to help personnel bond, test their resilience, navigational skills and stamina, while doing good for others.

The young guardsmen learned about their history during the blistering journey, which was covered as a platoon relay in two-and-a-half days.

Troops used maps and carried their equipment in Bergans to replicate operational weights, plotting a quick but safe course amid the heat of high summer.

The soldiers promised the use the activity to raise money for veterans of the regiment and families in need.

Discovering their origins

In 1651, the first man to serve in what would become the Grenadier Guards, Colonel William Careless, risked his life by hiding the fleeing King Charles II in an oak tree, following his defeat at the Battle of Worcester.

The king's father had been executed, the Civil War was over, the Royalist Army defeated and there was a bounty of £1,000 for his capture.

Colonel Careless selflessly looked after Charles day and night, seeing Cromwell's soldiers looking in the buildings and the land for the king.

He held him in his arms while he slept and pinched him to stay awake when danger approached before Cromwell's men gave up and left.

The two men escaped into exile in Belgium, with Colonel Careless becoming part of his bodyguard. When the Royal Regiment of Guards was established in 1656, Careless was among them and rode back to London in 1660 to help Charles retake the throne.

Troops from Inkerman Company Grenadier Guards learn more about their history on a 150 mile journey to Royal Oak (Picture: British Army).
Troops from Inkerman Company Grenadier Guards learn more about their history (Picture: British Army).

The 1st Regiment of Foot Guards then became known as the Grenadier Guards after their successes at Waterloo. Inkerman Company bears an image of the king hiding in the Oak tree.

The Oak tree, subsequently named the Royal Oak, became a symbol of English might.

Major Cartwright said: "It's all been about getting us ready for Iraq, mentally and physically.

"Physically, it takes the soldiers to a place they perhaps haven't been before, in terms of distance on the feet, and occasionally a little bit of speed, and certainly for some it will be the longest they've ever walked.

"In terms of mentally, the combination of the team building that happens over the walk; but also the understanding of the history of the unit they are a part of, which for some may feel there is pressure on shoulders, but for others, it is a foundation on which to build; sets us in a great place ready to do our pre-deployment training and make sure that when we hit operations, we're mentally resilient."