The Household Division has completed the first stage of their final preparations for the Queen’s Birthday Parade with a magnificent show of precision drill and pageantry – The Major General’s Review.
The Major General’s Review is the opportunity for the Major General Commanding The Household Division to review his troops and ensure they are of the required standard before The Colonel’s Review next week and the Queen’s Birthday Parade on 14th June. Major General Ed Smyth-Osbourne is currently General Officer Commanding the Household Division and this was his first Major General’s Review since taking up post in July 2013.
Nijmegen Company Grenadier Guards has the honour of “Trooping their Colour” this year. Also on parade today were the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, Number 7 Company Coldstream Guards, F Company Scots Guards, The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery and The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment who will provide the Sovereign’s Escort on the Queen’s Birthday Parade. Street liners on the Processional route on The Mall will be provided by the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards for the next two parades.
This has been another busy period for the Household Division, with some unique events and milestones. Operationally the Household Division’s contribution to the Afghan mission (Op HERRICK) is now in its final stages with units deploying and returning for the last time. The Household Cavalry Regiment, along with No 2 Coy, 1st Battalion Irish Guards, returned from their last HERRICK tours in 2013. In February 2014, 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards deployed for a final time and are stationed in Kabul. 1st Battalion Irish Guards are currently on operations in Cyprus supporting the United Nations and the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards have been in the Falkland Islands and Belize. The 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards will deploy on exercise to Kenya in the near future.
Some of the soldiers taking part today provided assistance to the civil authorities during what was a difficult time for some parts of the country this winter and they were proud and pleased to do so. Taking part today in the Major Generals review provided them with another chance to show off different military skills in front of the public.
Earlier this week The Household Cavalry received their new Standards from Her Majesty The Queen, and most of the troops on parade will be providing ceremonial support to the State Opening of Parliament on Wednesday 4th June.
The Queen’s Birthday Parade traces its origins traced back to the middle Ages, when each Lord or Baron flew his banner as a sign by which his followers could distinguish him in battle. As more flags were created they assumed a diversity of hues and came to be called ‘Colours’. By the Civil War, 1642-1660, Colours were in use for individual Companies and a Battalion would have had ten or more. The Regulations of 1661 established order and in 1707, during Queen Anne’s reign, the number of Colours was reduced to two per Regiment.
The principal role of a regiment’s Colours was to provide a rallying point on the battlefield. This was essential because, without modern communications, it was all too easy for troops to become disoriented and separated from their unit during conflict. But if troops were to be able to find their Colours in the chaos of the battlefield they needed to be able to recognise them and therefore it became the
practice to display them regularly. This was achieved by parading the troops and having an officer march along the ranks with the Colours held high. Colours were last carried into action by the 58th Foot in South Africa in 1881, but ‘trooping’ ceremonies continue to this day.
The Colours also carry battle honours: the names of places where a regiment has fought with courage and distinction.
As such, they serve as a reminder of hard-won victories, great sacrifice and the loss of fallen comrades. Before being presented by The Sovereign, a regiment’s Colours are consecrated in a religious ceremony. For all of these reasons, Colours have become sacred icons that symbolise a regiment’s history and traditions. For Guards Regiments, the Colours also symbolise their direct and enduring link to the Sovereign.