Scots Guards return home to mark Queen’s Holyrood anniversary visit
With their bearskin hats and red tunics, the Scots Guards always look immaculate on the parade ground.
But this week, fresh from Trooping the Colour in London, they have been making an extra effort as they are back in Scotland for the Queen’s visit, during which they will guard the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the Castle.
And as the men used up a last bit of elbow grease to make sure they were spick and span and ready for their ceremonial duties, there was perhaps just a hint they were going the extra mile, maybe conscious that they will be parading in front of proud relatives and loved ones.
Throughout the week the soldiers will guard the sovereign and will take part in a range of events including a parade today down the length of the Royal Mile before The Queen addresses a special sitting of parliament to mark the institution’s 20th anniversary.
The Scots Guards, which traces its lineage as far back as 1642, are the third of five regiments of Foot Guards along with the Grenadiers, the Coldstreams, the Irish and the Welsh Guards.
F Company, the regiment’s ceremonial arm, is usually based near London and acts as ceremonial guards for royal residences including Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace.
For many of the 100 soldiers and five officers who have come to Edinburgh it will be a return home, as approximately three-quarters of the Scots Guards come from Scotland and the north of England.
Officer Commanding F Company Scots Guards, Major Tom Mortensen, said: “It’s a huge honour for F Company to provide a Large Guard of Honour for Her Majesty’s arrival at the Palace of Holyroodhouse [otherwise known as the Ceremony of the Keys].
“On Saturday F Company will escort the Crown from Edinburgh Castle to Parliament. This is a great occasion on which the friends and family of the soldiers, and members of the public, can enjoy watching the Scots Guards performing in Scotland. It’s really nice to be performing on our home ground. You can also see us all of next week as we Guard the Palace and the Castle throughout the week.”
As well as being located at Holyrood Palace and Edinburgh Castle over the coming week, the platoons from F Company will rotate duties to be involved in different activities around the city, including going for training runs in the Pentland Hills.
Usually bound by their London routine, Major Mortensen said his men were looking forward to fresh air and variety.
In future the 1st Battalion Scots Guards will be located closer to home, as they are relocating from Aldershot, Hampshire, to Catterick in Yorkshire from August 2020.
Soldiers in the regiment have been preparing their uniforms in advance of next week. The famous bearskin hats require maintenance, as the hair must be brushed to stop it getting matted.
Shoes must also be well-polished, with a layer added every day in a process known as ‘bulling’.
“The process takes a bit of time and attention to detail,” explained Major Mortensen. “It’s a lesson that can be applied to the field, as this attention to detail is needed in all areas.”
And for anybody struggling to identify one Guards’ regiment from another, the clue is the buttons – always in threes for a Scots Guard and no tassel in their bearskin.