The Prince of Wales, Colonel of the Regiment, visited the Battalion at Combermere Barracks, Windsor on Wednesday 5th May. The visit, HRH’s first engagement since the death of his father, was an opportunity for The Prince of Wales to catch up informally with the Welsh Guards, hear first-hand about their activities over the past year, and to wish them good luck for their latest missions.
As members of the COVID Support Force, Welsh Guardsmen were among the first to roll out COVID-19 testing in the UK and together with the Royal Anglian Regiment and Grenadier Guards set up the first test sites and mobile testing units in England in March 2020.
In June 2020, the Battalion performed a birthday tribute at Windsor Castle for Her Majesty The Queen, a unique event incorporating innovative socially distanced drill moves.
A period of intense operational training immediately followed with the Battalion adapting to new ways of working which allowed them to train effectively in their warfighting role but still remain COVID compliant.
As the pandemic worsened its grip The Prince of Wales’s Company deployed on Christmas Day in 2020 to deliver mass testing and welfare to over 4,000 stranded lorry drivers in the Dover area.
This year the Battalion has deployed to the Falkland Islands, Nigeria and Kenya. Of those that remain The Prince of Wales’s Company is preparing for an operational tour in Iraq on Op SHADER, the UK’s contribution to the US led mission to counter Daesh by advising, supporting and working alongside local forces. Other members of the Battalion will deploy imminently to Africa on Op CORDED as part of the MOD’s ongoing mission to counter endangered wildlife poaching operations.
His Royal Highness was welcomed to the Windsor Barracks by a Quarter Guard, before being received by the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Llewelyn-Usher. His Royal Highness presented three medals to members of the battalion and then, in the Officers’ Mess Garden, he met and chatted with soldiers and officers in three socially distanced groups comprising of The Prince of Wales’s Company; Number Two Company; Number Three Company; and Headquarter Company Welsh Guards.
Before he bid them goodbye, Prince Charles paused to reflect at the new Welsh Guards Memorial which was unveiled by Field Marshal The Lord Guthrie in December last year. The stone memorial weighs over a ton and was cut especially for the Welsh Guards from Gloddfa Ganol slate quarry in Blaenau Ffestiniog.
Some 30 hours were spent cutting, polishing and engraving the stone before it made its journey from Wales to be unveiled in its new home for all to enjoy. It is a poignant reminder of the selfless duty and the sacrifice of all Welsh Guardsmen who have served the United Kingdom since the unit was founded in February 1915.
Speaking in the Officers’ Mess garden of Combermere Barracks, Prince Charles said: “I was so enormously proud of those of you who formed part of the complement during my father’s funeral recently. If I may say so, what a wonderful credit not only to the Welsh Guards but also the Household Division and all those who were on parade, for what you all did. I know my family and I were deeply moved by the way you all performed your duties. People from other countries rang me up to say that they had never seen anything quite so marvellous, so beautifully done and with such dignity and style.
“Of course it is something with which you are all rightly famed, but I know my father would have been also enormously touched because he had dreamt up this particular way he wanted it done.”
A short video of the visit can viewed on the official website of The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall here.