SAILORS from the Royal Navy will soon be guarding royalty for the very first time as they prepare to take on their opening stint as the Queen’s ceremonial guard.
Almost 90 men and women from 45 different units will be taking over the role in London from the army’s Coldstream Guard later this month.
As well as conducting ceremonial duties at the likes of Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace, Windsor Castle and the Tower of London, the Senior Service squad will be the frontline defence for the Royal family during a terror attack.
Drill instructors from the army have been working with the navy’s own top ceremonial duty team to get the sailors ready for their historic job – the first time the Royal Navy has ever had to tackle it.
Marching up and down the parade ground at the Royal Navy’s HQ on Whale Island, Portsmouth, the squad has been rehearsing every intricate move they will soon be tasked to perform in London.
The opportunity was the brainchild of Warrant Officer Eddie Wearing, who is the navy’s top drill instructor.
The 42-year-old Gosport-based sailor said: ‘This is a wish come true. Since I have been in the job two years I have been wanting to conduct public duties.
‘To be the conducting Warrant Officer for the first mount ever in the Royal Navy is a massive privilege and an honour to do. So I’m really looking forward to it.’
The navy guard will deploy to London over the next week and begin their time in the limelight with the prestigious Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace on Sunday, November 26.
During the following two weeks they will also Mount Guard at Windsor Castle, St James’s Palace and the Tower of London – where they will be guarding the crown jewels.
Each period of guard duty lasts for two days, with each new guard assembling at the Wellington Barracks parade square before marching with the Royal Marines Band to their ceremonial duties.
Leading them will be Lieutenant Commander Steve Elliott. Born and bred in Portsmouth, the 44-year-old, will be Captain of the Queen’s Guard – believed to be the first in the navy since Sir Walter Raleigh in 1587.
‘As we march out of Wellington Barracks for the first time I’m fairly sure everyone will grow a good eight to ten inches,’ said Lt Cdr Elliott, who is undertaking the role before he deploys on operations to Somalia in January.
‘It’s great to do this ceremonial piece and have the Royal Navy back in the public eye and act as a capstone to the year of the navy.
‘We couldn’t ask for anything better.’
Changing of the Guard can be traced back to Henry VII, when a royal bodyguard was created. Guards regiments formed to protect King Charles II in 1656.