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.
Browse content similar to The Coldstream Guards. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
The British Army. To an outsider,
it looks like one single fighting force.
it's divided into more than 40 independent regiments...
..each with its own culture and traditions.
And if you want to understand the British Army,
these regiments are the best place to start.
In this programme,
we meet one of the oldest regiments in the British Army.
There will be more than two billion people watching this.
There is absolutely no scope for any sort of cock-up.
Their ceremonial uniform is famous around the world.
I was taught in training that if it's uncomfortable,
you're doing it right cos nothing's comfortable in the army.
But first and foremost, they're a unit of fighting soldiers.
I'm fighting the Officer, so it shouldn't be too hard.
He's used to drinking Pimms, so I'll knock him out.
A regiment's history is what you fight for.
If you look at what the regiment has achieved since its birth,
it's been involved in everything.
This is a regiment that was formed to fight against the monarchy.
Now, it's a bodyguard to the Queen.
The Coldstream Guards.
The Coldstream Guards are famous for their redcoats,
bearskins and shiny boots.
Looking this good takes a lot of beeswax.
The beeswax is absorbed into the leather
then, it just hardens, makes the boots solid.
So, then, it'll hold the polish.
Makes it uncomfortable, but without the wax,
you won't get the same effect, you won't get the shine.
Boots that have been worn a few times,
you're looking at hours and hours of work,
if not maybe days of work, gone into them.
It is something you get quite proud over.
And it isn't just the boots that require a lot of attention.
I'm washing my bearskin.
I'm working the shampoo in.
It's like washing any normal sort of hair, really.
I'm not used to washing long hair,
but I probably wash it every month, if not, probably a bit more often,
just to keep it looking nicer.
Let it dry upside down.
Your bearskin will dry and that's done.
The Coldstream Guards are one of five regiments
that serve as ceremonial Foot Guards to the Queen.
The Changing of the Guard has become famous around the world.
It's so surreal marching down the streets,
and all the tourists there watching you.
You're just thinking,
"I've seen people do this so many times,
"I never imagined it would be me".
And I was so nervous the first time I did it, as well.
As one of the junior officers,
Lieutenant Scarlett is responsible for carrying the Regimental Colours.
'Historically, colours were used on the battlefield
'to show where certain units of men were.'
You know, I mean, I'm a small man,
the colour pike is probably at least a third bigger than me.
So, I'm walking down the streets of London
holding something which is pretty massive for a small man like me,
trying to move it around and not fall over and not look like an idiot.
Every soldier in the Coldstream Guards
will spend at least six months
with the regiment's ceremonial company in London.
Left, right, left, right. Left, right, left, right.
Most of their time is spent in the Light Infantry Battalion, in Aldershot.
Up, up, down, down!
The regiment is made up of over 800 men,
led by 77 officers.
In 2010, the Coldstream Guards were deployed
to a volatile area of Helmand, in Afghanistan.
-Make sure you move into position. There's a
-sniper round here.
They saw regular action against the Taliban
and suffered five fatalities.
They're peeling, they're peeling!
The Coldstreamers were awarded four Military Crosses for bravery,
more than any other regiment on their tour of duty.
Come on, fellas!
This was the latest honour for a regiment whose roots and traditions
reach back over 350 years.
The Coldstream Guards were born out of the English Civil War.
King Charles I was executed.
Oliver Cromwell soon took control of the country.
But his rule was fragile.
The Royalist cause still had strong support,
especially in Scotland.
In 1650, Cromwell created a new regiment,
to challenge Royalist forces north of the border.
The regiment was based in the northernmost town in England,
In those days, there wasn't a barracks.
They had to billet in houses around the community,
perhaps camp outside the walls,
and they were also asked to build a new church for the community,
the church of which I'm now very proud to be vicar.
As well as being a vicar,
Alan Hughes is also a veteran of the Coldstream Guards.
There's an old saying that,
"Once a Coldstreamer, always a Coldstreamer",
and it's almost 50 years since I joined the regiment,
but I'm wearing Coldstream cufflinks,
I'm wearing a Brigade of Guards pocket handkerchief
left by an old General friend I buried.
It's a little like having a stick of rock
with something running all the way through, being a Coldstreamer.
It rather runs through you.
The regiment's first Commanding Officer
was General George Monck.
Monck had been imprisoned
for fighting on the side of the Royalists during the Civil War.
While in the Tower of London,
he wrote a book on military strategy that impressed Cromwell.
He was released, on condition that he switch allegiance to Cromwell
and his parliamentarian cause.
This is General George Monck, who was a bit of a hero of his time.
He was a bit of a colossal man,
rather tall, rather plump for his time,
and had a farming background, but a fantastic soldier.
There's been a hundred books written about famous Generals
and General Monck is the first one that people write about.
Monck's regiment became part of the first professional fighting force
in British history -
Cromwell's New Model Army.
Known as Monck's Regiment of Foot,
the new force saw action within two weeks of its formation.
In September 1650,
it fought alongside Cromwell himself at the Battle of Dunbar,
where they routed a Royalist army.
Over the next decade,
Monck's regiment continued the campaign
against Royalist forces in Scotland.
Monck was becoming one of the most powerful men in the country.
When Oliver Cromwell died in 1658,
rival army factions started vying for power.
The country was sliding back towards civil war.
Monck was determined to restore order.
In January 1660,
he set off for London with 6,000 soldiers.
The march began in the village of Coldstream.
I'm standing, now, on the northern bank of the River Tweed,
in Coldstream, in the Scottish Borders.
And I'm standing beside a crossing point, a ford.
No bridge in the time of the regiment.
And what we're told is that in that January,
they set off into these icy waters and headed south.
Amazing men. So tough.
In January 2010, a company of Coldstream Guards
celebrated the 350th anniversary
of Monck's long march, by retracing the 425 mile route.
'It took us 26 days.
'Extremely hard work on the men.'
That kind of road mileage pounds away on knees and ankles
and the soles of the boots themselves.
So, we went through a few pairs of boots
and of course, some pretty impressive blisters.
'Monck's weather and our weather were extremely similar.
'There's a document that says that Monck didn't see bare earth
'between Berwick and London.'
So, we started in the snow, horrific snow.
We finished with a light drizzling of snow, so that was quite nice.
As Monck travelled south,
he was able to gauge the mood of the country.
Parliament was seen as ineffective and out of touch.
When he arrived in London with his force of 6,000 men,
he delivered a warning to the House of Commons.
"As I marched from Scotland hither,
"I observed the people in most counties.
"The chiefest of their desires were for a full and free parliament".
Monck finished with a threat.
"If any different counsels should be taken,
"these nations would be thrown back into force and violence."
Within a month, parliament was dissolved.
One of the first acts of the new parliament
was the restoration of the monarchy.
Cromwell's New Model Army was disbanded,
but Monck's Regiment of Foot was spared.
On the 14th of February 1661,
the regiment assembled at Tower Hill.
They ceremonially laid down their arms as Republican soldiers,
and raised them again as soldiers of the King.
They've served the monarchy ever since.
General Monck was given the Garter Star,
which is the highest award you can give to any military or civilian.
We wear it on our regimental head dress every day.
So, it's a very proud thing to wear.
When General Monck died in 1670, Monck's Regiment of Foot was renamed
the Coldstream Regiment of Foot Guards,
in honour of the march that helped restore the monarchy.
Monck's chaplain, Thomas Gumble, recorded the occasion.
"The town of Coldstream,
"because the General did it the honour
"to make it the place of his residence for some time,
"hath given title to a small company of men,
"whom God hath made instruments of great things."
A regiment's history,
be it the Coldstream Guards or any other, is what you fight for.
You fight knowing that your regiment hasn't failed before you.
So, you almost put yourself under pressure
knowing that the regiment has a proud history
and you have to live up to those expectations.
Number 23, half companies.
April the 27th, 2011.
Two days to go before the Royal Wedding.
'This morning, we're doing early morning rehearsal.'
Everybody's been up and about since about half past two,
for briefing at four o'clock, and then, on the road at five.
The reason it's early morning is cos the roads are quiet.
We have the place to ourselves without causing too much disruption.
It's our one opportunity to run through it
with everybody who's going to be on parade taking part.
The Coldstream Guards will be one of the regiments lining the route
of the Royal Procession along the Mall.
Front rank, halt!
Seven paces extend. Quick march!
OK, if you're in the wrong place, don't worry about it.
We've got overlap with the Welsh Guards.
Let the Major sort it out.
'Ceremonial drill harks back to the days when we fought on foot
'in lines and squares.'
Of course, it doesn't have any particular point in battles now.
We'd, I suspect, be equally good soldiers
if we didn't polish our boots to a high sheen and march smartly.
But that is the way in which we demonstrate outwardly
the pride we have in the job that we do and in the monarch that we serve.
There is no finer or sterner critic than Her Majesty
when it comes to ceremonial drill
and we don't want to be found wanting alongside the other regiments.
Number 8 half company!
-Get in the
The Coldstream Guards are on a training exercise in France.
Their mission - to take control of a small town
that's been overrun by insurgents.
-They're in the building.
-How many's left?
They're on a joint exercise with a French infantry company
and their armoured support.
The French have just gone over.
It's part of a new defence co-operation agreement
signed by the two countries in 2010.
It even extends to the sharing of ration packs.
There's some things that are better in the French,
and some things that are better in the British.
The way we've been able to co-ordinate working with the French is excellent.
The French platoon commander came in.
He said, "What do you want from us? This is what we can give you",
and it worked.
There is a language barrier, of course.
I have to say the French speak English better than we speak French,
which is to our shame.
But we're talking about fundamental skills that are the same
whether you're a French or British soldier,
so there's a level of understanding about how we need to do business.
The Coldstream Guards' relationship with the French
hasn't always been so collaborative.
One of the regiment's defining moments
was at the Battle of Waterloo.
It was to be the climax of over 20 years of conflict in Europe.
On the 18th of June, 1815,
British forces lined up alongside their European allies,
under the command of the Duke of Wellington.
Across the battlefield was Napoleon's Imperial Army.
The future of Europe hung in the balance.
The Coldstream Guards were given a vital role -
to defend the Chateau of Hougoumont,
on the Western flank of the battlefield.
If it were to fall,
Wellington's right flank would be dangerously exposed.
The battle of Waterloo began with a French assault on Hougoumont,
at about 11.30am.
From this moment, the chateau would be under constant attack.
Today, some of the Coldstreamers
have come to the scene of the battle.
So, this would be, I suppose, the first view
that the French would've had of the chateau.
Wellington committed 3,500 troops to hold Hougoumont.
Over the course of the day,
they would be attacked by 14,000 Frenchmen.
Much of the fighting took place in the orchard to the east
and in the woods to the south.
In the courtyard,
the Coldstream Guards were the last line of defence.
The British knocked holes through the garden walls,
so they could fire at the enemy.
They repelled wave after wave of French attacks.
Soon after midday,
a group of French infantry launched a surprise attack at the North Gate.
The French Lieutenant Legros,
The Enforcer as he was known - huge man,
comes at the gates with an axe and hacks his way through
the wooden bar securing the gate and breaks in with 40-odd Frenchmen.
Panic in the courtyard here and for a few minutes,
everything looks pretty awful - the French have got the courtyard.
That's when it could go horribly wrong.
Aware that the whole battle could be lost
if Hougoumont fell to the French,
the Coldstream Guards' Commanding Officer,
Lieutenant Colonel James Macdonnell, charged to the gates.
Private Matthew Clay was in the courtyard.
"I saw Macdonnell carrying a large piece of wood,
"or trunk of a tree in his arms
"with which he was hastening to secure the gates
"against the renewed attack of the enemy."
Macdonnell forced the gates shut against the enemy.
The Coldstreamers now turned on the French soldiers,
who'd fought their way into the courtyard.
It came down to man on man.
The sort of fighting that we will, hopefully, never experience.
We're talking cold steel, rifle butts, all very close in.
You know, in Afghanistan,
you never see the enemy, do you? 300 yards away,
if you're lucky. Whereas here,
it's hand to hand fighting and it's nothing but.
All the French who got in here were slaughtered.
The only Frenchman that was spared was the drummer boy
who was 11 or 12 years old.
The French assault on the chateau continued.
But the Coldstream Guards held their position
until Napoleon was defeated.
Defending Hougoumont cost Wellington 1,500 men.
The French lost up to 5,000.
The Duke of Wellington later said that,
"The success of the Battle of Waterloo
"turned on the closing of the gates at Hougoumont."
And he described Lieutenant Colonel Macdonnell as,
"The bravest man at Waterloo".
Those soldiers -
how can you describe them?
Probably some of the bravest people you'd ever meet.
The bravery shown by these men,
must have... Not must have, WAS second to none.
Hougoumont - it's impossible to describe
just how important it is to us.
It's funny. Here we are 300 yards from a motorway,
you can hear the traffic,
and yet, this is what made our regiment's name.
At the Coldstream Guards' barracks in Aldershot,
the regiment's success at Hougoumont is still commemorated every year.
The celebrations feature a brick
that was brought home from the site of the battle.
Here is the original brick from Hougoumont Farm
which is hung above the bar in December for one day of the year
and anybody who touches that brick
is then required to provide the beverage for the rest of that day.
Often, the junior officers shy away from being invited to touch it,
so it's usually them being crowd-surfed towards the bar.
Then, whatever means possible for them to touch it,
which is usually headfirst, unfortunately for them.
In the Sergeants' Mess,
the record of the regiment's history comes right up to date.
In terms of modern history,
this is a piece we brought back from Afghanistan last year.
So, this was taken from Taliban insurgents.
They tried to make their escape good on this motorcycle,
when they were arrested. We managed to keep hold of it
and it's on proud display in the Sergeants' Mess.
It doesn't work. It would be dangerous for it to work
because mixing this motorcycle with happy hours on a Friday afternoon
would cause lots and lots of trouble for me.
So, it doesn't work at all.
The battalion returned from Afghanistan in May last year,
and unfortunately, we had five fatalities,
one of whom was a Sergeant's Mess Member, John Amer.
We've got a nice sketch drawing of him there.
Clearly of him in action, also, and unfortunately, of his funeral.
And we often remember Sergeant Christopher Hickey - Tricky,
who was killed in action in Iraq on the 18th of October in 2005,
on his last patrol of that tour
just prior to when he was due to fly back to the UK.
When a soldier is killed in the battalion, it really hits hard.
Whilst we're away on operations,
there is a small amount of time to bereave,
but you've got to move on really quickly
and get on with the job in hand.
The time to really remember and bereave is on the return to the UK.
It's particularly hard because these people are not just colleagues,
these people have been friends, and more than friends, for many years
and my family and everybody else's family interacts on a regular basis.
It's much more personal than just being colleagues, it's actually...
The Coldstream Guards is a real family.
Tonight, the Coldstreamers have gathered
for an inter-company boxing tournament.
Seconds out. First round!
CHEERING AND SHOUTING
Guardsman Billy Robinson, wearing blue,
served in Afghanistan last year.
He was injured when a roadside bomb exploded
within metres of where he was standing.
His friend was killed.
I enjoy the sport. Especially after Afghan, we had a hard time out there.
It's one of them sports that gets you team building again.
'Even though you hit each other and train with each other,'
you've still got that bond.
The referee would like to congratulate both boxers.
By majority decision, red is the winner!
Guardsman Robinson has been beaten by an Officer.
To the left.
But the junior ranks have another chance,
with Lance Sergeant Anthony Bull.
I'm fighting the Officer's Mess.
He's used to drinking Pimms,
so I'm just going to knock him out, hopefully.
CROWD CALL OUT
'Boxing's almost like the epitome of everything that a soldier should be.
'It takes a lot of courage to get into the ring,'
to stand against your opponent in front of you and fight the guy.
'It's everything that a solider needs to be is embodied in this sport.'
It's the Officers' night. Lance Sergeant Bull has also lost.
I hadn't seen two Officers fight in the third division before.
I think that shows great character.
Well done to both of you for winning.
LAUGHTER DROWNS SPEECH
It shows the character of the battalion - that's fantastic.
So, well done the boxers.
Put that on first, don't worry about that other thing.
It's the day of the Royal Wedding.
Last-minute preparations are underway.
What'll happen now is I'll get my mate to brush me down,
so I've got no white fluff or anything on me.
Guardsman Tom Carlin has recently completed basic army training.
Today, will be the first time he's performed ceremonial duties.
This is the first big thing, we got here two weeks ago.
From passing off at Catterick to a Royal wedding.
Quite proud to be part of it, to be fair.
All in all, I was doing these for maybe an hour,
hour and a half, day before yesterday.
As you can see,
my left foot's quite tight, so I can't even wear a sock,
that's why I've bandaged it.
Double check my tweeds are the right length.
Probably a little bit of adjustment.
When you stand at attention, this one sits on the second lace.
Starting to get a little bit nervous as all the kit's going on.
Starting to get a little bit warmer.
I was always taught in training that if it's uncomfortable,
you're doing it right - nothing's comfortable in the army.
THEY PERFORM ROLL CALL
There will be more than two billion people
watching this on television around the world.
There is absolutely no scope for mistakes,
loss of concentration, any sort of cock-up.
And we will be smarter
than any other formed body of men out there today.
For 360 years,
the Coldstream Guards have been at the heart of British life.
Today, they're on parade at a Royal ceremony,
watched across the world.
For the soldiers,
it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
For the regiment, it's one more day in a long and eventful history.
'We are a very small part of a rather large beast.'
Nobody is bigger than the regiment we serve.
It does us well to remember that from time to time.
'I feel part of something that has been going on for a long time'
before I came along,
and hopefully, will be going on for an awfully long time after I've left and died.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
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.