All Blogposts contain only personal views and are published in an entirely personal capacity. However, I do not accept any legal responsibility for the content of any comment unless I have refused to delete the comment following a valid complaint. Any complaint must set out the grounds for the deletion of the comment. I also reserve the right to delete comments that - in my opinion, are offensive or make unsubstatiated accusations against persons or groups. Like the BBC, this Blog is not responsible for the content of external internet sites. (with thanks to Valleys Mam's blog where I nicked most of this from).


28 Apr 2011

Spare A Thought For The Soldiers Lining The Streets

Foot Guards

Back in 1981 I was a young eager Lance Corporal (LCpl).  My Regiment was garrisoned in Tidworth in Hampshire on the edge of Salisbury Plain.     Our Ceremonial Colonel-In-Chief was Prince Charles and it was a role he took very seriously regulalry dropping by for a chat with the troops and their wives and children.   Anyways,  because of all this my Regiment was among those selected to be given the honour to line part of the route for the wedding of he and the late Princess Diana.

It involved weeks and weeks of preperation.  Best boots had to be 'bulled' until they were like glass, worn repeatedly for drill so that your feet and they became the best of friends and then re-bulled.  Number 2 Dress uniforms were fitted, tailored and re-fitted again and again,  peaks on the twat-hats polished and re-polished,  rifles virtualy re-built so they looked like new.  And drill. And more drill and - when there was a spare 5 minutes, a bit of drill to pass the time.

As they great day came closer visits to London were carried out in small groups and we were shown exactly where we would be stood - one soldier, every six paces, for three and a half miles, on both sides of the road.    We walked the route from Horse Guards Parade (HGP) to the various markings that had been sprayed on the road so that each Regiment knew where to stop, then each group of 24 knew where to stop and from there march to their relevant individual places.

My spot was in Fleet Street.  In the middle of the road facing me was an underground public toilet.  Aproximately 75 metres to my left would be a grandstand of VIPs with David Jacobs giving them a personal commentary.

And then we did more drill.  Capped off by some drill.

The great day came.   At daft o'clock in the dark we boarded coaches dressed in sports kit carrying our precious best boots, rifle, bayonet and twat-hat (the uniforms having been bagged and hung on rails in the following Colour-Bloke's 4-tonner) and drove to London.   HGP looked like a refugee camp. Soldiers, sailors and airmen from all over the south of England in various states of dress were brushing down their best kit, helping each other dress, inspecting each other.  In groups we were taken by our Company Sergeant Majors to the edge of the square and made to eat a sausage butty with a mug of sweet tea under his paternal gaze.   Some food so that we didn't faint,  not to much liquid - there would be no toilet breaks!!.

Slowly the great mess started to take order.  Our Band & Drums lined up and we fell in in column behind.  One by one all the other Regiments did likewise  until across HGP was a row of Regimental bands each with a column of hundreds of men in groups of 24 behind.  Each Regiment's Colour Party then marched it's Colours to the centre of their column while that Regiment's troops presented arms to the history, honour & sacrifice their Colours represent .

Then we were off.  Bands playing, everything sparkling in the sun, one column followed by another by another -  thousands of soldiers, each one knowing exactly where his Regiment would stop, followed by where his group would stop, followed by where he as an individual would stop.  We wheeled out onto the route and the first thing that hit us was the crowds - it was hours before anything was going to happen and it looked like the whole of the world was there. Street after street. With the band and the best kit and the weather a swagger was only natural and we felt 10 feet tall.

Six hours I was stood stationary in Fleet Street.  I came to attention 4 times, presented arms twice.  Other than that not a movement.  At the end of it I was drained and absoultely exhausted,  the bottom half of my face burnt to a frazzle and I was so thirsty I couldn't describe and bursting for a wee.     All I remember of the actual event was Spike Milligan hanging out of a black cab waving his top hat and our Drum Major 'bollocking' David Jacobs very loudly and very publicly for referring to our Colours as 'flags' and a very humbled Mr Jacobs apologising.  Oh,  and the Police forcing barley sugar sweets into your mouth every half hour or so. And they wouldn't take no for an answer.

So on the day - whether you are a Royals fan or not,  spare a thought for the effort all those servicemen and women have put into their kit,   how tired they will be. Marvel in their personal discipline and the sad fact they won't even get to see Spike Milligan.

Stag on troops.


Photon said...

Briliant piece of writing, RF! For once, a blog post that I really enjoyed reading.

It's becoming a rare thing, despite all the military actions going on, to hear first-hand accounts of military service. It's always easy to think such things belong to the past, somehow.

Still, oour family naval pilot has probably had his life considerably extended by badly wrecking his wrist in a seaside rescue incident, bringing his military flying career to an abrupt end. Sad, but probably better than getting shot down!

The Red Flag said...

A shame. Will he still be able to fly in 'civvy street'.

Photon said...

Not for some time, I should think. Competition is so stiff for former mil pilots in civvy street that any question about health isn't going to be helpful.

Still, time and some healing...

kp said...

I'll stop by again, worth reading!

The Red Flag said...

My first impressions this morning are of the differences between this one and his father's back in 1981.

The first most noticeable thing is how few soldiers there are. Back in 1981 the route was lined before the start. This time it appears it will only be lined for the procession after the actual wedding ceremony. The route is also an awful lot shorter and finally the speed they are moving is faster - I assume that's because back in '81 it was all horse drawn carriages but now they are in state limo's.

Groundhog said...

Brilliant RF ! As an ex-serviceman of 24 years man and boy it brought back lots of memories but as a blue-job we did not have half the BS you poor squaddies had to put up with. Bet it did you no harm whatsoever though and service life has a habit of helping us grow a real spine!

The Red Flag said...

Groundhog, it took me all day to work out why things were so fast today then it dawned on me. This weddinng was at Westminster Abbey, his dad's was at St Pauls which was a far far bigger route.

the outsider said...

good to see your new blog site. I know it will enliven debate.