Many of us would love to have a birthday parade with marching bands, and soldiers perfectly turned out displaying their marching skills. Trooping the Colour marks His Majesty The King’s official birthday. As the late Duke of Edinburgh stated, “it is not a “theatrical” production, (sic) it is a deadly serious demonstration of the basic infantry skills for which the British Guards are renowned across the world.” However for the general public it is one of the best displays of the King’s armed forces.
Trooping the Colour
What is meant by Trooping the Colour? Well, its origins really go back to the Middle Ages when each Lord or Baron flew his banner and required his followers to distinguish him in the midst of battle. The banner or flags (‘Colours’) became a rallying point for soldiers on the battlefield, an important means of visual communication when the troops became disoriented and separated from their battalion.
To ensure that the troops recognised their respective Colours, they were displayed regularly, including parading the troops and an officer carrying the Colours along the ranks. The Colours also have become a record of the battle honours with names of places where the regiment fought with courage and distinction. The Colours have become sacred icons that are consecrated in a religious ceremony. The Colour is always protected; it is always saluted wherever the flag is displayed or carried.
This year, The Colour of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards will be Trooped. Active since February 1915, the Welsh Guards is one of the five Foot Guards regiments of the British Army and is part of the Guards Division.
Since 1748, Trooping the Colour has incorporated the marking of the Sovereign’s official birthday. It was cancelled during the First World War (1914-18), the Second World War (1940-46), and in 1955 due to a National train strike!
This will be an historic occasion as it will the first Trooping the Colour for His Majesty King Charles lll. He will leave from Buckingham Palace and is expected to ride down the Mall to Horseguards Parade ground, where 1450 soldiers of the Household Division and The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, along with up to 400 musicians from the Massed Bands will be waiting for his arrival. As is the custom, His Majesty will carry out an inspection of the line of assembled Guards. The preparations for this day take careful planning with regular practice to ensure precision timing and positioning; everything is rehearsed many times to ensure that all will be perfect on the day. The Parade begins at Horse Guards at 10.00 am and will finish by 12.25 pm.
To ensure timings are kept, two full dress rehearsals take place – the Major General’s Review and the Colonel’s Review that allows the public a chance to see the resplendent display of the Foot Guards, the Sovereign’s Escort of the Household Cavalry, the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery with musical accompaniment provided by the Massed Bands of the Household Division. The parade includes the Collection of the Colour. The Escort for the Colour will be the No 1 Guard of the Welsh Guards. The junior officer designated to carry the Colour will troop the Colour through the ranks, continuing a long-held tradition.
What will follow will be the March Past by the foot guards and the Ride Past by the mounted troops; it presents a wonderful display of their disciplined coordination and a testimony to the hours of rehearsal required to ensure that the Birthday Parade continues to be a popular event.
At the conclusion of the Parade, the soldiers and the Household Cavalry will march down the Mall, lined with soldiers from the 1st London Guard Reserve. This will be their first time in 30 years – what an honour! His Majesty will return to Buckingham Palace greeted by cheering crowds lining The Mall. The public will have the opportunity to see other members of the British Royal Family on their way to back to Buckingham Palace.
His Majesty will be joined on the palace balcony by other members of the Royal Family, including Prince William (Prince of Wales). At 12.52 pm precisely, the Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery will fire a 41-gun salute in Green Park. An aerial spectacle that is the Fly Past by the Royal Air Force will take place but will be subject to weather conditions.
If all goes to plan, expect a flypast of old and new aircraft flying over Buckingham Palace, with a finale by the world-renowned Red Arrows announcing their arrival with a spectacular roar as they fly in formation that will include their signature trail of red, white, and blue smoke to bring the King’s first Official Birthday to a wonderful close.
For more images from the Colonel’s Review and Trooping The Colour, all taken by London Blue Badge Tourist Guide Angela Morgan, check out our Facebook Album featuring the 2015 event.
Changing the Guard
If you did not get to see the Trooping the Colour and the procession along The Mall, you might want to consider the Changing the Guard ceremony that takes place at Buckingham Palace. It is subject to changes -” well this is the Army Mr Jones!”. When scheduled, you will see foot guards from one of the five regiments carrying out their duties to guard the King. The responsibility for guarding the Sovereign dates back to the time of HVll (1485-1509). If you want to get a good view of the soldiers marching into the Palace, it is advisable to arrive early as it is a very popular event.
Alternatively, you might want to see the Household Mounted Regiment Guard Change. This takes place at Horse Guards Parade. You will see both the King’s Trusted Guardians -The Life Guards and the Blues and Royals on horseback. Guard change takes place from 11.00 am Monday to Saturday and 10:00 am on Sunday. It lasts about 30 minutes. The Old Guard returns to Knightsbridge Barracks, making their way up the Mall past Buckingham Palace.
If you miss the morning Guard Changes, watch the 4 ‘O’ Clock Parade at Horse Guards. Its formal name is Dismounting Ceremony. It takes place at 16:00 when dismounted sentries are posted, and the horses return to their stables.