Tung: Hello Calum. Welcome back to VOV’s Culture Rendezvous. The very first thing I notice about the Queen’s Guards is that they do not move. Is it compulsory for them?
Calum: Yes, they are not allowed to move during their duty. Typically, a guard spends 2 hours on duty and 4 off. He is not expected to stand still for any longer than 10 minutes at a time, so every often, he marches up and down in front of his sentry box.
Tung: How many guards are there in front of the Buckingham Palace?
Calum: When the Queen is in residence, there are 4 foot guards at the front of the building. When she is away, there are 2. Altogether, the guards consists of 3 officers and 36 soldiers. The five Regiments of Foot Guards are the Grenadier Guards, the Coldstream Guards, the Scots Guards, the Irish Guards and the Welsh Guards. identified by the plume in their bearskin cap, button spacing, collar and shoulder badges.
| The hat is made from real bearskin (Photo: Pinterest)
Tung: In regards to their appearance, one of the most interesting features of the Queen’s Guards is the costume, especially their hats. Can you tell us more about what they wear?
Calum: Foot Guards on duty are seen in full-dress uniform, which consists of a bearskin hat, a scarlet tunic, dark blue trousers with red stripes, a white leather belt, and gold buttons with the Queen’s insignia on the coat. The hat is made from real bearskin. It is about 46 cm high and can be really heavy, especially on wet days. For many years, the Ministry of Defense and the British Army have tried to find an alternative material for the hat, but nothing else has been accepted yet.
Tung: The hat has a very big strap, doesn’t it?
Calum: The gold strap which rests on the mouth was not meant to retain the hat but rather to provide protection for the face. The hats' chin straps are fastened under their noses in case of attack. In the old days, cavalry soldiers would aim for the head. The placing of the strap also ensures that the hat would come off if hit without breaking our necks.
Tung: It looks strange but it helps protect the wearer from an attack. Is it difficult to become a guard of the Queen?
Calum: Of course yes. The very first criteria is your physical condition. You must be at a certain height. Candidates also have to pass the BARB, the British Army Recruit Battery test, which tests your basic logic and smarts.
Tung: I think this is a very hard job, isn’t it?
Calum: That is so true. Getting bored, being annoyed by tourists, bearing a health risks, and everything. They are not allowed to move, or talk, even wipe their sweat on hot days. Actually they can talk sometimes, but that’s when they need to shout warnings if people fail to move away or start to act aggressively against them.
And can you imagine standing there for hours? The only movements they're allowed during their regular shift are to turn to the left, march about 10 paces, turn around, and go back to standing still. Blood can be trapped in your legs and you can faint.
Tung: Thank you very much for your sharing.
This week, we’ve been talking with Calum Bacon about the British Queen’s Guards. Culture Rendezvous will be back next week with more fascinating stories about culture around the globe. This is Hoang Tung. Goodbye.