The Coldstream Guards Regimental Stories


The Coldstream Guards

A look at how the Coldstream Guards, who now serve as a bodyguard to the Queen, are still motivated by a history which stretches back to the English Civil War.


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Transcript


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The British Army. To an outsider,

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it looks like one single fighting force.

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In reality,

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it's divided into more than 40 independent regiments...

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..each with its own culture and traditions.

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And if you want to understand the British Army,

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these regiments are the best place to start.

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In this programme,

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we meet one of the oldest regiments in the British Army.

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There will be more than two billion people watching this.

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There is absolutely no scope for any sort of cock-up.

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Their ceremonial uniform is famous around the world.

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I was taught in training that if it's uncomfortable,

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you're doing it right cos nothing's comfortable in the army.

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But first and foremost, they're a unit of fighting soldiers.

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I'm fighting the Officer, so it shouldn't be too hard.

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He's used to drinking Pimms, so I'll knock him out.

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A regiment's history is what you fight for.

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If you look at what the regiment has achieved since its birth,

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it's been involved in everything.

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This is a regiment that was formed to fight against the monarchy.

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Now, it's a bodyguard to the Queen.

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The Coldstream Guards.

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Right, halt!

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The Coldstream Guards are famous for their redcoats,

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bearskins and shiny boots.

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Looking this good takes a lot of beeswax.

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The beeswax is absorbed into the leather

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then, it just hardens, makes the boots solid.

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So, then, it'll hold the polish.

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Makes it uncomfortable, but without the wax,

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you won't get the same effect, you won't get the shine.

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Boots that have been worn a few times,

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you're looking at hours and hours of work,

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if not maybe days of work, gone into them.

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It is something you get quite proud over.

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And it isn't just the boots that require a lot of attention.

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I'm washing my bearskin.

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I'm working the shampoo in.

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It's like washing any normal sort of hair, really.

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I'm not used to washing long hair,

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but I probably wash it every month, if not, probably a bit more often,

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just to keep it looking nicer.

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Let it dry upside down.

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Your bearskin will dry and that's done.

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MARCHING MUSIC

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The Coldstream Guards are one of five regiments

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that serve as ceremonial Foot Guards to the Queen.

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The Changing of the Guard has become famous around the world.

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It's so surreal marching down the streets,

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and all the tourists there watching you.

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You're just thinking,

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"I've seen people do this so many times,

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"I never imagined it would be me".

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And I was so nervous the first time I did it, as well.

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As one of the junior officers,

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Lieutenant Scarlett is responsible for carrying the Regimental Colours.

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'Historically, colours were used on the battlefield

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'to show where certain units of men were.'

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You know, I mean, I'm a small man,

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the colour pike is probably at least a third bigger than me.

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So, I'm walking down the streets of London

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holding something which is pretty massive for a small man like me,

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trying to move it around and not fall over and not look like an idiot.

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Every soldier in the Coldstream Guards

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will spend at least six months

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with the regiment's ceremonial company in London.

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Left, right, left, right. Left, right, left, right.

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Most of their time is spent in the Light Infantry Battalion, in Aldershot.

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Up, up, down, down!

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The regiment is made up of over 800 men,

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led by 77 officers.

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Down, up!

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In 2010, the Coldstream Guards were deployed

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to a volatile area of Helmand, in Afghanistan.

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-Make sure you move into position. There's a

-BLEEP

-sniper round here.

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They saw regular action against the Taliban

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and suffered five fatalities.

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They're peeling, they're peeling!

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The Coldstreamers were awarded four Military Crosses for bravery,

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more than any other regiment on their tour of duty.

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Come on, fellas!

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This was the latest honour for a regiment whose roots and traditions

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reach back over 350 years.

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Run fast!

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GUNFIRE

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The Coldstream Guards were born out of the English Civil War.

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In 1649,

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King Charles I was executed.

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Oliver Cromwell soon took control of the country.

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But his rule was fragile.

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The Royalist cause still had strong support,

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especially in Scotland.

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In 1650, Cromwell created a new regiment,

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to challenge Royalist forces north of the border.

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The regiment was based in the northernmost town in England,

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Berwick-upon-Tweed.

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In those days, there wasn't a barracks.

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They had to billet in houses around the community,

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perhaps camp outside the walls,

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and they were also asked to build a new church for the community,

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the church of which I'm now very proud to be vicar.

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As well as being a vicar,

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Alan Hughes is also a veteran of the Coldstream Guards.

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There's an old saying that,

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"Once a Coldstreamer, always a Coldstreamer",

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and it's almost 50 years since I joined the regiment,

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but I'm wearing Coldstream cufflinks,

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I'm wearing a Brigade of Guards pocket handkerchief

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left by an old General friend I buried.

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It's a little like having a stick of rock

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with something running all the way through, being a Coldstreamer.

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It rather runs through you.

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The regiment's first Commanding Officer

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was General George Monck.

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Monck had been imprisoned

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for fighting on the side of the Royalists during the Civil War.

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While in the Tower of London,

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he wrote a book on military strategy that impressed Cromwell.

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He was released, on condition that he switch allegiance to Cromwell

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and his parliamentarian cause.

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This is General George Monck, who was a bit of a hero of his time.

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He was a bit of a colossal man,

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rather tall, rather plump for his time,

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and had a farming background, but a fantastic soldier.

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There's been a hundred books written about famous Generals

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and General Monck is the first one that people write about.

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Monck's regiment became part of the first professional fighting force

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in British history -

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Cromwell's New Model Army.

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Known as Monck's Regiment of Foot,

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the new force saw action within two weeks of its formation.

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In September 1650,

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it fought alongside Cromwell himself at the Battle of Dunbar,

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where they routed a Royalist army.

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Over the next decade,

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Monck's regiment continued the campaign

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against Royalist forces in Scotland.

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Monck was becoming one of the most powerful men in the country.

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When Oliver Cromwell died in 1658,

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rival army factions started vying for power.

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The country was sliding back towards civil war.

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Monck was determined to restore order.

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In January 1660,

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he set off for London with 6,000 soldiers.

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The march began in the village of Coldstream.

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I'm standing, now, on the northern bank of the River Tweed,

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in Coldstream, in the Scottish Borders.

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And I'm standing beside a crossing point, a ford.

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No bridge in the time of the regiment.

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And what we're told is that in that January,

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they set off into these icy waters and headed south.

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Amazing men. So tough.

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In January 2010, a company of Coldstream Guards

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celebrated the 350th anniversary

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of Monck's long march, by retracing the 425 mile route.

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'It took us 26 days.

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'Extremely hard work on the men.'

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That kind of road mileage pounds away on knees and ankles

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and the soles of the boots themselves.

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So, we went through a few pairs of boots

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and of course, some pretty impressive blisters.

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'Monck's weather and our weather were extremely similar.

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'There's a document that says that Monck didn't see bare earth

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'between Berwick and London.'

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So, we started in the snow, horrific snow.

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We finished with a light drizzling of snow, so that was quite nice.

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As Monck travelled south,

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he was able to gauge the mood of the country.

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Parliament was seen as ineffective and out of touch.

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When he arrived in London with his force of 6,000 men,

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he delivered a warning to the House of Commons.

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"As I marched from Scotland hither,

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"I observed the people in most counties.

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"The chiefest of their desires were for a full and free parliament".

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Monck finished with a threat.

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"If any different counsels should be taken,

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"these nations would be thrown back into force and violence."

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Within a month, parliament was dissolved.

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Elections followed.

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One of the first acts of the new parliament

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was the restoration of the monarchy.

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Cromwell's New Model Army was disbanded,

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but Monck's Regiment of Foot was spared.

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On the 14th of February 1661,

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the regiment assembled at Tower Hill.

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They ceremonially laid down their arms as Republican soldiers,

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and raised them again as soldiers of the King.

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They've served the monarchy ever since.

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General Monck was given the Garter Star,

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which is the highest award you can give to any military or civilian.

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We wear it on our regimental head dress every day.

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So, it's a very proud thing to wear.

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When General Monck died in 1670, Monck's Regiment of Foot was renamed

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the Coldstream Regiment of Foot Guards,

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in honour of the march that helped restore the monarchy.

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Monck's chaplain, Thomas Gumble, recorded the occasion.

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"The town of Coldstream,

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"because the General did it the honour

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"to make it the place of his residence for some time,

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"hath given title to a small company of men,

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"whom God hath made instruments of great things."

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A regiment's history,

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be it the Coldstream Guards or any other, is what you fight for.

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You fight knowing that your regiment hasn't failed before you.

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So, you almost put yourself under pressure

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knowing that the regiment has a proud history

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and you have to live up to those expectations.

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BELL CHIMES

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Number 16!

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Number 23, half companies.

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April the 27th, 2011.

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Two days to go before the Royal Wedding.

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'This morning, we're doing early morning rehearsal.'

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Everybody's been up and about since about half past two,

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for briefing at four o'clock, and then, on the road at five.

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The reason it's early morning is cos the roads are quiet.

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We have the place to ourselves without causing too much disruption.

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It's our one opportunity to run through it

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with everybody who's going to be on parade taking part.

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The Coldstream Guards will be one of the regiments lining the route

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of the Royal Procession along the Mall.

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Front rank, halt!

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Seven paces extend. Quick march!

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OK, if you're in the wrong place, don't worry about it.

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We've got overlap with the Welsh Guards.

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Let the Major sort it out.

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'Ceremonial drill harks back to the days when we fought on foot

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'in lines and squares.'

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Of course, it doesn't have any particular point in battles now.

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We'd, I suspect, be equally good soldiers

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if we didn't polish our boots to a high sheen and march smartly.

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But that is the way in which we demonstrate outwardly

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the pride we have in the job that we do and in the monarch that we serve.

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There is no finer or sterner critic than Her Majesty

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when it comes to ceremonial drill

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and we don't want to be found wanting alongside the other regiments.

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Number 8 half company!

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Royal salute!

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Present Arms!

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-Get in the

-BLEEP

-building!

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GUNFIRE

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The Coldstream Guards are on a training exercise in France.

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Their mission - to take control of a small town

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that's been overrun by insurgents.

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-They're in the building.

-How many's left?

-BLEEP

-loads.

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They're on a joint exercise with a French infantry company

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and their armoured support.

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The French have just gone over.

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GUNFIRE

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It's part of a new defence co-operation agreement

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signed by the two countries in 2010.

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It even extends to the sharing of ration packs.

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There's some things that are better in the French,

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and some things that are better in the British.

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The way we've been able to co-ordinate working with the French is excellent.

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The French platoon commander came in.

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He said, "What do you want from us? This is what we can give you",

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and it worked.

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There is a language barrier, of course.

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I have to say the French speak English better than we speak French,

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which is to our shame.

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But we're talking about fundamental skills that are the same

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whether you're a French or British soldier,

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so there's a level of understanding about how we need to do business.

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The Coldstream Guards' relationship with the French

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hasn't always been so collaborative.

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One of the regiment's defining moments

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was at the Battle of Waterloo.

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It was to be the climax of over 20 years of conflict in Europe.

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On the 18th of June, 1815,

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British forces lined up alongside their European allies,

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under the command of the Duke of Wellington.

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Across the battlefield was Napoleon's Imperial Army.

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The future of Europe hung in the balance.

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The Coldstream Guards were given a vital role -

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to defend the Chateau of Hougoumont,

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on the Western flank of the battlefield.

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If it were to fall,

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Wellington's right flank would be dangerously exposed.

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The battle of Waterloo began with a French assault on Hougoumont,

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at about 11.30am.

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From this moment, the chateau would be under constant attack.

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Today, some of the Coldstreamers

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have come to the scene of the battle.

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So, this would be, I suppose, the first view

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that the French would've had of the chateau.

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Wellington committed 3,500 troops to hold Hougoumont.

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Over the course of the day,

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they would be attacked by 14,000 Frenchmen.

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Much of the fighting took place in the orchard to the east

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and in the woods to the south.

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In the courtyard,

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the Coldstream Guards were the last line of defence.

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The British knocked holes through the garden walls,

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so they could fire at the enemy.

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They repelled wave after wave of French attacks.

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Soon after midday,

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a group of French infantry launched a surprise attack at the North Gate.

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The French Lieutenant Legros,

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The Enforcer as he was known - huge man,

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comes at the gates with an axe and hacks his way through

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the wooden bar securing the gate and breaks in with 40-odd Frenchmen.

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Panic in the courtyard here and for a few minutes,

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everything looks pretty awful - the French have got the courtyard.

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That's when it could go horribly wrong.

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Aware that the whole battle could be lost

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if Hougoumont fell to the French,

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the Coldstream Guards' Commanding Officer,

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Lieutenant Colonel James Macdonnell, charged to the gates.

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Private Matthew Clay was in the courtyard.

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"I saw Macdonnell carrying a large piece of wood,

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"or trunk of a tree in his arms

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"with which he was hastening to secure the gates

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"against the renewed attack of the enemy."

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Macdonnell forced the gates shut against the enemy.

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The Coldstreamers now turned on the French soldiers,

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who'd fought their way into the courtyard.

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It came down to man on man.

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The sort of fighting that we will, hopefully, never experience.

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We're talking cold steel, rifle butts, all very close in.

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You know, in Afghanistan,

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you never see the enemy, do you? 300 yards away,

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if you're lucky. Whereas here,

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it's hand to hand fighting and it's nothing but.

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All the French who got in here were slaughtered.

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The only Frenchman that was spared was the drummer boy

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who was 11 or 12 years old.

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The French assault on the chateau continued.

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But the Coldstream Guards held their position

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until Napoleon was defeated.

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Defending Hougoumont cost Wellington 1,500 men.

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The French lost up to 5,000.

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The Duke of Wellington later said that,

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"The success of the Battle of Waterloo

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"turned on the closing of the gates at Hougoumont."

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And he described Lieutenant Colonel Macdonnell as,

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"The bravest man at Waterloo".

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Those soldiers -

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how can you describe them?

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Probably some of the bravest people you'd ever meet.

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The bravery shown by these men,

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must have... Not must have, WAS second to none.

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Hougoumont - it's impossible to describe

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just how important it is to us.

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It's funny. Here we are 300 yards from a motorway,

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you can hear the traffic,

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and yet, this is what made our regiment's name.

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At the Coldstream Guards' barracks in Aldershot,

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the regiment's success at Hougoumont is still commemorated every year.

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The celebrations feature a brick

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that was brought home from the site of the battle.

0:20:220:20:25

Here is the original brick from Hougoumont Farm

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which is hung above the bar in December for one day of the year

0:20:280:20:31

and anybody who touches that brick

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is then required to provide the beverage for the rest of that day.

0:20:330:20:37

SHOUTING

0:20:370:20:39

Often, the junior officers shy away from being invited to touch it,

0:20:410:20:45

so it's usually them being crowd-surfed towards the bar.

0:20:450:20:48

Then, whatever means possible for them to touch it,

0:20:480:20:51

which is usually headfirst, unfortunately for them.

0:20:510:20:54

CHEERING

0:20:540:20:57

In the Sergeants' Mess,

0:21:000:21:02

the record of the regiment's history comes right up to date.

0:21:020:21:06

In terms of modern history,

0:21:060:21:08

this is a piece we brought back from Afghanistan last year.

0:21:080:21:12

So, this was taken from Taliban insurgents.

0:21:120:21:15

They tried to make their escape good on this motorcycle,

0:21:150:21:18

when they were arrested. We managed to keep hold of it

0:21:180:21:22

and it's on proud display in the Sergeants' Mess.

0:21:220:21:25

It doesn't work. It would be dangerous for it to work

0:21:250:21:27

because mixing this motorcycle with happy hours on a Friday afternoon

0:21:270:21:31

would cause lots and lots of trouble for me.

0:21:310:21:34

So, it doesn't work at all.

0:21:340:21:36

The battalion returned from Afghanistan in May last year,

0:21:420:21:45

and unfortunately, we had five fatalities,

0:21:450:21:47

one of whom was a Sergeant's Mess Member, John Amer.

0:21:470:21:50

We've got a nice sketch drawing of him there.

0:21:530:21:59

Clearly of him in action, also, and unfortunately, of his funeral.

0:21:590:22:03

And we often remember Sergeant Christopher Hickey - Tricky,

0:22:030:22:07

who was killed in action in Iraq on the 18th of October in 2005,

0:22:070:22:13

on his last patrol of that tour

0:22:130:22:15

just prior to when he was due to fly back to the UK.

0:22:150:22:19

When a soldier is killed in the battalion, it really hits hard.

0:22:210:22:25

Whilst we're away on operations,

0:22:250:22:26

there is a small amount of time to bereave,

0:22:260:22:30

but you've got to move on really quickly

0:22:300:22:32

and get on with the job in hand.

0:22:320:22:34

The time to really remember and bereave is on the return to the UK.

0:22:340:22:39

It's particularly hard because these people are not just colleagues,

0:22:390:22:42

these people have been friends, and more than friends, for many years

0:22:420:22:46

and my family and everybody else's family interacts on a regular basis.

0:22:460:22:51

It's much more personal than just being colleagues, it's actually...

0:22:510:22:55

The Coldstream Guards is a real family.

0:22:550:22:58

DRUMMING

0:22:590:23:03

Tonight, the Coldstreamers have gathered

0:23:030:23:07

for an inter-company boxing tournament.

0:23:070:23:09

Seconds out. First round!

0:23:100:23:13

CHEERING AND SHOUTING

0:23:130:23:16

Guardsman Billy Robinson, wearing blue,

0:23:200:23:23

served in Afghanistan last year.

0:23:230:23:25

He was injured when a roadside bomb exploded

0:23:250:23:28

within metres of where he was standing.

0:23:280:23:30

His friend was killed.

0:23:300:23:32

I enjoy the sport. Especially after Afghan, we had a hard time out there.

0:23:340:23:37

It's one of them sports that gets you team building again.

0:23:370:23:41

'Even though you hit each other and train with each other,'

0:23:410:23:44

you've still got that bond.

0:23:440:23:46

The referee would like to congratulate both boxers.

0:23:460:23:50

By majority decision, red is the winner!

0:23:500:23:53

CHEERING

0:23:530:23:58

Guardsman Robinson has been beaten by an Officer.

0:23:580:24:00

To the left.

0:24:000:24:02

But the junior ranks have another chance,

0:24:020:24:05

with Lance Sergeant Anthony Bull.

0:24:050:24:08

I'm fighting the Officer's Mess.

0:24:080:24:10

He's used to drinking Pimms,

0:24:100:24:11

so I'm just going to knock him out, hopefully.

0:24:110:24:13

CROWD CALL OUT

0:24:170:24:22

'Boxing's almost like the epitome of everything that a soldier should be.

0:24:220:24:26

'It takes a lot of courage to get into the ring,'

0:24:260:24:28

to stand against your opponent in front of you and fight the guy.

0:24:280:24:32

'It's everything that a solider needs to be is embodied in this sport.'

0:24:320:24:36

BELL RINGS

0:24:370:24:38

APPLAUSE

0:24:380:24:41

Blue!

0:24:420:24:44

It's the Officers' night. Lance Sergeant Bull has also lost.

0:24:470:24:51

I hadn't seen two Officers fight in the third division before.

0:24:510:24:55

I think that shows great character.

0:24:550:24:57

Well done to both of you for winning.

0:24:570:25:00

LAUGHTER DROWNS SPEECH

0:25:000:25:05

It shows the character of the battalion - that's fantastic.

0:25:070:25:10

So, well done the boxers.

0:25:100:25:12

Put that on first, don't worry about that other thing.

0:25:180:25:22

It's the day of the Royal Wedding.

0:25:220:25:24

Last-minute preparations are underway.

0:25:240:25:27

What'll happen now is I'll get my mate to brush me down,

0:25:290:25:34

so I've got no white fluff or anything on me.

0:25:340:25:38

Guardsman Tom Carlin has recently completed basic army training.

0:25:390:25:44

Today, will be the first time he's performed ceremonial duties.

0:25:440:25:48

This is the first big thing, we got here two weeks ago.

0:25:480:25:52

From passing off at Catterick to a Royal wedding.

0:25:520:25:58

Quite proud to be part of it, to be fair.

0:25:580:26:00

All in all, I was doing these for maybe an hour,

0:26:000:26:04

hour and a half, day before yesterday.

0:26:040:26:07

As you can see,

0:26:070:26:08

my left foot's quite tight, so I can't even wear a sock,

0:26:080:26:11

that's why I've bandaged it.

0:26:110:26:13

Double check my tweeds are the right length.

0:26:170:26:20

Probably a little bit of adjustment.

0:26:200:26:22

When you stand at attention, this one sits on the second lace.

0:26:220:26:25

That's good.

0:26:250:26:26

Starting to get a little bit nervous as all the kit's going on.

0:26:280:26:31

Starting to get a little bit warmer.

0:26:310:26:33

Hot. Sweaty.

0:26:330:26:36

I was always taught in training that if it's uncomfortable,

0:26:360:26:39

you're doing it right - nothing's comfortable in the army.

0:26:390:26:42

THEY PERFORM ROLL CALL

0:26:420:26:45

There will be more than two billion people

0:26:550:26:59

watching this on television around the world.

0:26:590:27:02

There is absolutely no scope for mistakes,

0:27:020:27:07

loss of concentration, any sort of cock-up.

0:27:070:27:11

And we will be smarter

0:27:110:27:13

than any other formed body of men out there today.

0:27:130:27:16

For 360 years,

0:27:310:27:34

the Coldstream Guards have been at the heart of British life.

0:27:340:27:38

Today, they're on parade at a Royal ceremony,

0:27:380:27:42

watched across the world.

0:27:420:27:44

CHEERING

0:27:500:27:53

For the soldiers,

0:27:580:27:59

it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

0:27:590:28:03

For the regiment, it's one more day in a long and eventful history.

0:28:060:28:11

'We are a very small part of a rather large beast.'

0:28:120:28:16

Nobody is bigger than the regiment we serve.

0:28:160:28:18

It does us well to remember that from time to time.

0:28:180:28:20

'I feel part of something that has been going on for a long time'

0:28:200:28:25

before I came along,

0:28:250:28:26

and hopefully, will be going on for an awfully long time after I've left and died.

0:28:260:28:29

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:28:500:28:53

E-mail [email protected]

0:28:530:28:55

Formed to fight against the monarchy during the English Civil War, the Coldstream Guards now serve as a bodyguard to the Queen. This film reveals how their history continues to motivate them to this day.


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