Royal Navy begins palaces guard duties

For just the second time in a long and illustrious history, Royal Navy sailors are guarding four Royal palaces and take on a role more commonly associated with redcoats and bearskins.

Sailors from establishments across the UK and representing three of the five fighting arms, the Surface Fleet, Submarine Service and Fleet Air Arm, completed weeks of ceremonial training, culminating in a parade to ensure readiness to take the place of the famous old red-coated Guards regiments in London and Windsor.

Palace duties also means the Royal Navy and Royal Marines musicians are much in demand for the next month, with one of the Senior Service bands providing support when mounting or dismounting the guard.

Sentry duties for the 104 officers and ratings started today at Buckingham Palace when, at 11am, the Changing of the Guard saw 1 Battalion Grenadier Guards replaced by a Royal Navy contingent of 35. On 19 December, the Royal Navy will march out of Windsor Castle concluding another job well done.

Officer commanding the Royal Navy Guard, Lieutenant Commander Richard Dobson, said: “This will be an intense and memorable experience for all of us at the end of several weeks of ceremonial duties training, just eight or nine days of it specifically on palace guarding, and could be regarded as the pinnacle of my professional career which began as a rating in 1990.

“The instructors from the Guards could not have been better, for those eight or nine days they really put us through our paces and prepared us thoroughly for our Fit For Role inspection last week enabling us to mount guards today.”

Palace duties for these sailors follows November parades at the Cenotaph and Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance. Only after they were concluded could training, mostly conducted on the HMS Excellent drill square in Portsmouth, focus on guarding. The hard work continues all month with their time out of the public eye spent tending uniforms and rehearsing drills for whichever of the four palaces they are on duty at next.

Lt Cdr Dobson volunteered to lead the contingent when he discovered the Royal Navy was going to mount guards again having heard from colleagues about the success of the previous venture and sense of personal achievement and pride in being Captain of the Queen’s Guard.

The Senior Service last mounted guards in 2017 and jumped at the opportunity to do it again; the sailor most recently made Captain of the Queen’s Guard prior to that is thought to have been Sir Walter Raleigh in 1587.

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