I’ve just been watching this pretty interesting documentary on BBC iplayer. It follows the Grenadier Guards as they prepare for the annual Trooping the Colour Ceremony. The Grenadier Guards took centre stage in the parade only weeks after returning from Afghanistan, a tour of duty in which they suffered a number of fatalities, including their Regimental Sergeant Major. There are two ways to look on this – firstly, it shows how resilient and professional the Guards are, but secondly, also how hard stretched they are in having to Troop the Colour so soon after returning from a hard tour.
I’ve always thought – patriotism aside – that no-one does ceremony quite like the British armed forces, and the Guards are the best in the business. But in the hard pressed and cash strapped modern environment is there a role for public duties? Whilst their shouldn’t be any sacred cows in the Armed Forces, we should not underestimate how important the Household Division is to tourism and Britain’s image. Their professionalism shines throughout, both in public duties and on operations. The Sergeant-Majors are terrifying, and the London Garrison Sergeant Major is the closest thing to God in the British Army.
How in the modern climate can the Army adapt to ensure that ceremonies such as Trooping the Colour still take place? Firstly, it might have to look beyond it being just a Guards event. Although the Guards at the Royal palaces are usually Foot Guards, occasionally other Regiments take a turn – why not use the same policy with trooping the colour? Long gone is the time when the Guards were THE elite of the British Army – nowadays the whole Army is an elite in its own right, with some regiments such as the Paras and the Rifles have their own elite status. It would also relieve the pressure on the Guards Regiments. Might it not make a better showcase for the Army to show different Regiments in this way, particularly with the lack of a broader event such as the old Royal Tournament?
Just a thought…