Tales from a Royal Guardsman

Coldstream Guards

Arthur Smith is a man that has had the privilege of protecting the Royal Family and the Palaces as a Royal Guardsman. His tenure as a guardsman has provided him with many interesting anecdotes.

Arthur enlisted in 1981 at age 16. He went to bootcamp at Folkestone on the Kent Coast. From there he went on to the Infantry Junior Leaders Battalion. This was a program to train future Non-Commissioned Officers. Then he was dispatched to Guards Depot Pirbright in Surrey. At first he was posted in the Second Battalion Coldstream Guards in Fallingbostal, West Germany.  

Arthur was located at the Wellington Barracks except for five months in 1985 when the battalion was rotated to South Amaugh (bandit country).

Platoon South Amaugh Ireland
Arthur at the Mortar Platoon South Amaugh, Ireland 1985
He is second row, third from left
This was during his rotation from public duties

Public Duties

After some time at the Wellington Barracks in London, Arthur began his duties as a royal guardsman. His public duties in London were located at Buckingham Palace, St. James Palace, and the Tower of London. The public duties are also carried out at Windsor Castle, which is one of Queen Elizabeth’s Royal Residences.

The guard shifts in Spring and Summer included on the post two hours on, then four hours off with the guards in rotation on 24 hour cycles.

When Queen Elizabeth was in residence the Royal Standard (flag) is flying above the palace. When she is present the guard personnel increases in numbers.

Meeting Queen Elizabeth

In 1983 at Baron’s Court Arthur met Queen Elizabeth at a Garden Party for the household division. He admits to being very nervous about meeting her. She was making her way around to the personnel that made up her guard’s regiments and thanking them for their service. The Queen came up to Arthur, looked him in the eye and asked him how long has he served. She shook his hand firmly as she did this. He replied three years and was enjoying his time in the Coldstream Guards. 

Wellington Barricks marching to Buckingham Palace for Chaning of the Guard Coldstream Guards
Arthur, center with mustache, marching from Wellington Barracks to Buckingham Palace during Changing of the Guard

Tales from a Royal Guardsman

At the Tower of London, Arthur was posted outside the guardroom of the tower, opposite the White Tower. During Officer’s rounds the chain in front of the sentry box to keep the public out was open.

At this time, a female American tourist decides to get a photo taken next to Arthur. She had crossed the line where the chain should have been. At first standing at ease, Arthur then stood at attention as per protocol. This lady had mistakenly thought he was getting ready for the photo opportunity. Arthur then shouldered his rifle as she kept approaching him. Since she did not understand the warning, he challenged her and screamed, “HALT” and thrusted his bayonet towards her. She screamed and ran off in a panic.

This type of incident has happened occasionally with the sentries. Arthur commented, “We are not there as a tourist attraction but to do a job to protect the Royal Family and their palaces.”

Tower of London
Tower of London
geograph.org.uk

According to Arthur, the Tower of London was a scary place in the middle of the night. Even though the tower is in the center of bustling London, at this time, the midnight quiet had a creepy aura. Seth, another guardsman, would prowl around at 2 am wearing a horror mask and cape. Then he would proceed to frighten the young guardsman. He loved to do this for laughs.

The Residence of the Queen Mother was St. James Palace. On very hot days she would send out orange squash to the sentries to refresh them. In the middle of summer the guards can get very warm in their wool uniforms. From April through September the guards wear red tunics (summer dress) , and from October through March they wear grey coats (winter dress).

Queen’s Birthday Parade

On three separate occasions Arthur was part of the Guard for the Queen’s birthday parade. This usually takes place in late May or early June. This is the official head of state’s sovereign birthday, and not Queen Elizabeth’s actual birthday of April 21st.

Arthur was present at the inspection at Horse Guards in the video below. This was the last time Queen Elizabeth rode in for the inspection on horseback. Every year after, the Queen did the inspection from a carriage. 

In 1988 Arthur left the service and headed north to Doncaster to take care of his younger sister because their mother had died. His time as a Royal Guardsman was indeed a significant time in his life. In 1996, he co-founded Northern Precision LTD, a company that is still in business to this day.

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