Welsh Guards

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Welsh Guards
Wg capbadge.jpg
Cap badge of the Welsh Guards, representing a leek, a traditional symbol of Wales
CountryFlag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
BranchFlag of the British Army.svg  British Army
Type Infantry
Role1st Battalion Light Infantry/Public Duties
Size Battalion
Part of London District
Garrison/HQ Combermere Barracks
Nickname(s)The Foreign Legion (WWII)
Motto(s)"Cymru am Byth" ( Welsh )
(Wales Forever)
MarchQuick Rising of the Lark
Slow  Men of Harlech
Anniversaries1 March (St David's Day)
Honorary Colonel: Major General Richard Stanford MBE
Commanding Officer: Lieutenant-Colonel H S Llewelyn-Usher
Colonel-in-Chief Elizabeth II
Colonel of
the Regiment
The Prince of Wales KG KT OM AK QSO PC ADC(P)
Tactical Recognition Flash GuardsTRF.svg
Left side of Bearskin cap

The Welsh Guards (WG; Welsh : Gwarchodlu Cymreig), part of the Guards Division, is one of the Foot Guards regiments of the British Army. It was founded in 1915 as a single-battalion regiment, during the First World War, by Royal Warrant of George V. Shortly after the regiment's formation, it was deployed to France where it took part in the fighting on the Western Front until the end of the war in November 1918. During the inter-war years, the regiment undertook garrison duties in the United Kingdom, except 1929–1930 when it deployed to Egypt, and late 1939 when it deployed to Gibraltar.

Welsh language Brythonic language spoken natively in Wales

Welsh is a Brittonic language of the Celtic language family. It is spoken natively in Wales, by some in England, and in Y Wladfa. Historically, it has also been known in English as 'British', 'Cambrian', 'Cambric' and 'Cymric'.

Guards Division administrative unit of the British Army

The Guards Division is an administrative unit of the British Army responsible for the administration of the regiments of Foot Guards and the London Regiment. The Guards Division is responsible for providing two battalions for public duties to London District ; although the guards are most associated with ceremony, they are nevertheless operational infantry battalions, and as such perform all the various roles of infantry.

Regiment Military unit

A regiment is a military unit. Their role and size varies markedly, depending on the country and the arm of service.


The regiment was expanded to three battalions during the Second World War, and served in France, North Africa, Tunisia, Italy and Western Europe. In the post war period, the regiment was reduced to a single battalion and saw service in Palestine, Egypt, West Germany, Aden, Northern Ireland, and Cyprus. In 1982, the regiment took part in the Falklands War. In the 21st century, the regiment has deployed as peacekeepers to Bosnia, and on operations to both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Battle of France Successful German invasion of France in 1940

The Battle of France, also known as the Fall of France, was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries during the Second World War. On 3 September 1939 France had declared war on Germany, following the invasion of its ally Poland. In early September 1939, France launched the Saar Offensive, which stalled. By mid October, French troops had been withdrawn to their original start positions. In six weeks from 10 May 1940, German forces defeated Allied forces by mobile operations and conquered France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, bringing land operations on the Western Front to an end until the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944. Italy entered the war on 10 June 1940 and invaded France over the Alps.

North African campaign military campaign of World War II

The North African campaign of the Second World War took place in North Africa from 10 June 1940 to 13 May 1943. It included campaigns fought in the Libyan and Egyptian deserts and in Morocco and Algeria, as well as Tunisia.

Western Front (World War II) military theatre of World War II encompassing Denmark, Norway, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Germany

The Western Front was a military theatre of World War II encompassing Denmark, Norway, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Germany. World War II military engagements in Southern Europe and elsewhere are generally considered under separate headings. The Western Front was marked by two phases of large-scale combat operations. The first phase saw the capitulation of the Netherlands, Belgium, and France during May and June 1940 after their defeat in the Low Countries and the northern half of France, and continued into an air war between Germany and Britain that climaxed with the Battle of Britain. The second phase consisted of large-scale ground combat, which began in June 1944 with the Allied landings in Normandy and continued until the defeat of Germany in May 1945.


Creation and First World War service

The Welsh Guards came into existence on 26 February 1915 by Royal Warrant of George V in order to include Wales in the national component to the Foot Guards, "..though the order to raise the regiment had been given by the King to Earl Kitchener, Secretary of State for War, on 26 February 1915." [1] [2] They were the last of the Guards to be created, with the Irish Guards coming into being in 1900. Just three days later, the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards mounted its first King's Guard at Buckingham Palace on 1 March 1915 St David's Day. [3]

Wales Country in northwest Europe, part of the United Kingdom

Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It is bordered by England to the east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It had a population in 2011 of 3,063,456 and has a total area of 20,779 km2 (8,023 sq mi). Wales has over 1,680 miles (2,700 km) of coastline and is largely mountainous with its higher peaks in the north and central areas, including Snowdon, its highest summit. The country lies within the north temperate zone and has a changeable, maritime climate.

Irish Guards part of the Guards Division, is one of the Foot Guards regiments of the British Army

The Irish Guards (IG), part of the Guards Division, is one of the Foot Guards regiments of the British Army and, together with the Royal Irish Regiment, it is one of the two Irish infantry regiments in the British Army. The regiment has participated in campaigns in the First World War, the Second World War, the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan as well as numerous other conflicts throughout their history. The Irish Guards claims six Victoria Cross recipients, four from the First World War and two from the Second World War.

Buckingham Palace Official London residence and principal workplace of the British monarch

Buckingham Palace is the London residence and administrative headquarters of the monarch of the United Kingdom. Located in the City of Westminster, the palace is often at the centre of state occasions and royal hospitality. It has been a focal point for the British people at times of national rejoicing and mourning.

On 17 August 1915, the 1st Battalion sailed for France to join the Guards Division to commence its participation in the First World War. Its first battle was some months after its initial arrival, at Loos on 27 September 1915. The regiment's first Victoria Cross came two years later in July 1917 awarded to Sergeant Robert Bye. [3]

Battle of Loos offensive mounted on the Western Front during World War I

The Battle of Loos took place from 25 September – 8 October 1915 in France on the Western Front, during the First World War. It was the biggest British attack of 1915, the first time that the British used poison gas and the first mass engagement of New Army units. The French and British tried to break through the German defences in Artois and Champagne and restore a war of movement. Despite improved methods, more ammunition and better equipment, the Franco-British attacks were contained by the German armies, except for local losses of ground. British casualties at Loos were about twice as high as German losses.

Victoria Cross Highest military decoration awarded for valour in armed forces of various Commonwealth countries

The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest and most prestigious award of the British honours system. It is awarded for valour "in the presence of the enemy" to members of the British Armed Forces. It may be awarded posthumously. It was previously awarded to Commonwealth countries, most of which have established their own honours systems and no longer recommend British honours. It may be awarded to a person of any military rank in any service and to civilians under military command although no civilian has received the award since 1879. Since the first awards were presented by Queen Victoria in 1857, two-thirds of all awards have been personally presented by the British monarch. These investitures are usually held at Buckingham Palace.

Inter-war years

Soon after the end of the war in 1918 1st Welsh Guards returned home and where they would be based for much of the inter-war period, performing training and ceremonial duties, such as the Changing of the Guard and Trooping the Colour. In 1929, 1st Welsh Guards deployed to Egypt where they joined the Cairo Brigade where they stayed for only a brief period of time, returning home in 1930. Just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, 1st Welsh Guards were dispatched to Gibraltar where they remained upon the outbreak of war in September 1939. The 2nd Battalion, Welsh Guards was created in 1939. [3]

Trooping the Colour military ceremony in the British Army and other Commonwealth militaries

Trooping the Colour is a ceremony performed by regiments of the British and Commonwealth armies. It has been a tradition of British infantry regiments since the 17th century, although its roots go back much earlier. On the battlefield, a regiment's colours, or flags, were used as rallying points. Consequently, regiments would have their ensigns slowly march with their colours between the ranks to enable soldiers to recognise their regiments' colours.

Egypt Country spanning North Africa and Southwest Asia

Egypt, officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a country in the northeast corner of Africa, whose territory in the Sinai Peninsula extends beyond the continental boundary with Asia, as traditionally defined. Egypt is bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, Libya to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north. Across the Gulf of Aqaba lies Jordan, across the Red Sea lies Saudi Arabia, and across the Mediterranean lie Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, although none share a land border with Egypt.

29th Infantry Brigade (United Kingdom)

The 29th Infantry Brigade was an infantry brigade unit of the British Army. It was originally raised in 1914 and saw service during the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War.

Second World War

The Welsh Guards were increased to three battalions during the Second World War. The 1st Battalion fought valiantly in all the campaigns of the North-West European Theatre. The 2nd Battalion, part of the 20th Independent Infantry Brigade (Guards), fought briefly in Boulogne, France, in late May 1940 whilst the 1st fought in the battles of Belgium and France as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) GHQ Troops. In May 1940 at the Battle of Arras, the Welsh Guards gained their second Victoria Cross by Lieutenant Christopher Furness, who was subsequently killed in action. The 1st Battalion was subsequently part of the retreat to Dunkirk, where they were involved in the legendary Dunkirk evacuation that saw nearly 340,000 Allied troops return to the United Kingdom, against all odds. [3]

World War II 1939–1945, between Axis and Allies

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from more than 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

The 20th Independent Infantry Brigade was an infantry brigade of the British Army, raised during the Second World War.

Boulogne-sur-Mer Subprefecture and commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Boulogne-sur-Mer, often called just Boulogne, is a coastal city in Northern France. It is a sub-prefecture of the department of Pas-de-Calais. Boulogne lies on the Côte d'Opale, a touristic stretch of French coast on the English Channel between Calais and Normandy, and the most visited location in the region after Lille conurbation. Boulogne is its department's second-largest city after Calais, and the 163rd-largest in France. It is also the country's largest fishing port, specialising in herring.

Men of 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards in Arras, France, 14 February 1940. The British Army in France 1940 F2548.jpg
Men of 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards in Arras, France, 14 February 1940.

The 3rd Battalion, Welsh Guards, which was formed at Beavers Lane Camp in 1941, fought throughout the arduous North African Campaign, in the Tunisia Campaign and the Italian campaigns in 1943. [3]

While they battled on in those theatres the 1st and 2nd joined the Guards Armoured Division, with the 1st Battalion being infantry, assigned to the 32nd Guards Brigade, and the 2nd Battalion being armoured, part of the 6th Guards Armoured Brigade. The two battalions worked closely, being the first troops to re-enter Brussels on 3 September 1944 after an advance of 100 miles in one day in what was described as 'an armoured lash unequalled for speed in this or any other war' led by Major-General Sir Allan Henry Adair, the divisional commander. [4]


The Prince of Wales, colonel of the regiment since 1975, in Welsh Guards uniform at Trooping the Colour, 2012. Prince Charles.JPG
The Prince of Wales, colonel of the regiment since 1975, in Welsh Guards uniform at Trooping the Colour, 2012.

Shortly after the end of the war the 3rd Battalion was disbanded while the 2nd Battalion was placed in suspended animation. In 1947 the 1st Welsh Guards were dispatched to Palestine, then under British control, while it was in a volatile and violent situation. The Welsh Guards were part of the 1st Guards Brigade and performed internal security (IS) duties while there, before leaving in 1948 during the British withdrawal and when the state of Israel was declared. The regiment had its colour trooped for the first time in 1949. [5]

In 1950, the regiment arrived in West Germany as part of the 4th Guards Brigade, part of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR). In 1952 the regiment joined the Berlin Brigade in West Berlin, an enclave in Communist East Germany during tense times between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Warsaw Pact. The Welsh Guards returned home the following year and soon after deployed to the British-controlled Suez Canal Zone (SEZ) in Egypt. As previously in Palestine, the Welsh Guards' time in Egypt was quite turbulent. They performed internal security duties there. They remained in the SEZ until the British withdrawal in 1956. [6]

In 1960, the regiment deployed to West Germany again, and in 1965 to Aden, another part of the declining British Empire. They were to return home the following year. In 1970 the regiment arrived again in West Germany, this time at Münster, as part of 4th Armoured Brigade. [7]

In 1972, came deployment to Northern Ireland, then embroiled in violence later known as "The Troubles". During its tour of duty the regiment lost Sergeant Phillip Price in a terrorist attack by the Provisional Irish Republican Army on the Oxford Street Bus Depot in Belfast, one of a series of terrorist attacks in the city which became known as "Bloody Friday". The following year the Welsh Guards were dispatched to the province again and during this period lost Guardsman David Roberts in a landmine explosion. [8]

Between October 1975 and March 1976 the Welsh Guards were part of the British contingent of the United Nations force deployed to Cyprus in the aftermath of the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974. [9] In 1977 the regiment arrived in West Berlin again, and then in 1979 once more in the midst of the volatile situation in Northern Ireland, they lost Guardsman Paul Fryer to a booby trap bomb. On 9 July 1981, Daniel Barrett, aged 15 years, was sitting on the garden wall of his home in Havana Court, Ardoyne, North Belfast, when he was shot dead by a soldier. Many people have mistakenly said this was a Welsh Guardsman; however, no Welsh Guardsmen were serving in Ulster at that time. [10]

Falklands War

In 1982, the Welsh Guards (CO Lieutenant-Colonel John Rickett) formed part of the 5th Infantry Brigade of the British Task Force sent to liberate the Falkland Islands from Argentinian occupation during the Falklands War. On 8 June they were on board the ill-fated Sir Galahad, which was accompanied by Sir Tristram, waiting to be landed at Bluff Cove though they were delayed from doing so. However, attack was imminent after the landing craft were spotted by Argentinian observers. At 2:00 am, five Dagger and five A-4 Skyhawk aircraft were seen over the Falklands. Shortly afterwards, the Daggers were the first to attack. Only a short time later, the Skyhawks reached Fitzroy, with three of the aircraft hitting the Sir Galahad two or more times with horrific consequences. Sir Tristram was also hit which killed two crewmen, both ships were ablaze. The attack on Sir Galahad culminated in high casualties, 48 dead, 32 of them Welsh Guards, 11 other Army personnel and five crewmen from Sir Galahad herself. There were many wounded, many suffering from horrendous burns caused by fire from the burning ships, the best known being Simon Weston. The burnt-out Sir Galahad was later scuttled at sea to allow her to become a war grave. [11]

Present day

Welsh Guardsman outside the Jewel House at the Tower of London. WG 001.jpg
Welsh Guardsman outside the Jewel House at the Tower of London.

In 1984, the Welsh Guards arrived in Hohne, West Germany as part of the 22nd Armoured Brigade and two years later arrived in Northern Ireland for another tour-of-duty before returning to Germany. The regiment returned home to Elizabeth Barracks, Pirbright in 1988. In 1989 The Welsh Guards conducted a six month operational roulement Battalion tour of Belize from April to October 1989 and in 1992 arrived in Northern Ireland for a two year deployment as part of 8th Infantry Brigade. [12] During their tour of Northern Ireland the BBC filmed the documentary In the Company of Men by Molly Dineen, which filmed a deployment to the heavily nationalist County Fermanagh during the regiment's tour. [13]

On 6 September 1997, 12 Guardsmen of the Welsh Guards led by the adjutant of the 1st Battalion, "The Prince of Wales" Company, Captain Richard Williams MC, hero in 1993 of the Khmer Rouge incident in which he was captured defending civilians in Cambodia, [14] were pulled from security patrols in South Armagh, Northern Ireland and together with members of the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery escorted the casket of Diana, Princess of Wales, from Kensington Palace to Westminster Abbey. [15]

In 2002, the regiment arrived in Bosnia as part of SFOR, a NATO-led force intended to ensure peace and stability in the Balkan nation. During their deployment the Queen Mother died. A number of officers of the Welsh Guards stood in vigil around the Queen Mother's coffin which was lying in state in Westminster Hall, one of a number of regiments to do so. The regiment returned home from its deployment to Bosnia later in the year. It was involved in Operation Fresco, the British armed forces response to the firefighters strike; the Welsh Guards covered the Midlands area, primarily in Birmingham using the antiquated Army Green Goddess fire engines. [16]

In 2003, the Welsh Guards experienced a unique moment in their history when they moved from Aldershot to RAF St Athan, Wales. [17]

In 2005, the Welsh Guards were part of Operation Telic and were based in Basra, Southern Iraq. Here they used valuable relationship-building skills, learnt from their time in Bosnia, to build a bond between the regiment and the locals. [18]

In 2006, the regiment returned to London as a public duties battalion. It will alternate this role with the Grenadier Guards. The regiment deployed to Bosnia in October 2006, replacing the 2nd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment. In November 2007, the regiment deployed to Belize at short notice to take part in jungle warfare training, they returned just before Christmas. [19]

In 2008, the Welsh Guards moved from London to Lille Barracks in Aldershot, in preparation for deployment on Operation Herrick 10 in Afghanistan. The regiment departed in April 2009. Six members of the battalion were killed, among them a platoon commander, a company commander and the battalion commander. It was the first time since the Korean War that a single battalion had lost officers at these three key levels of leadership. The six-month tour was chronicled in the book Dead Men Risen; the Welsh Guards and the Defining Story of Britain's War in Afghanistan by Toby Harnden, [20] which won the Orwell Prize for Books 2012. [21]

The Welsh Guards marching in the 2010 Moscow Victory Day Parade in Moscow, Russia. 2010 Moscow Victory Day Parade-30.jpeg
The Welsh Guards marching in the 2010 Moscow Victory Day Parade in Moscow, Russia.

On 1 July 2009, Lieutenant-Colonel Rupert Thorneloe MBE was killed along with Trooper Joshua Hammond of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, following the detonation of an IED in Afghanistan under their BvS 10 Viking during Operation Panther's Claw. Lieutenant-Colonel Thorneloe was the highest ranking British Army officer killed since Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert "H" Jones, VC OBE, in the Falkland Islands. [22]

As a result of the Army 2020 Refine reforms, the battalion moved to Combermere Barracks which was the former home to the armoured regiment of the Household Cavalry. Following their move, the battalion was assigned to London District where they, along with the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, became public duties battalions. After moving to the barracks, the battalion exchanged responsibilities with the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards. [23] [24] [25]


There are two museums with artefacts and memorabilia about the regiment. The Welsh Guards Museum is located in Oswestry, Shropshire. [26] The Guards Museum, located in Wellington Barracks in London, is home of the five regiments of Foot Guards (the Grenadier Guards, Coldstream Guards, Scots Guards, Irish Guards, and Welsh Guards). [27]


Recruits practising drill on Catterick parade square Helles Barracks Parade Ground - geograph.org.uk - 1192460.jpg
Recruits practising drill on Catterick parade square

Recruits to the Guards Division go through a grueling training programme at the Infantry Training Centre (ITC). The training is two weeks more than the training for the Regular line infantry regiments of the British Army; the extra training, carried out throughout the course, is devoted to drill and ceremonies. [28]

Regimental colonels

Regimental colonels have been:

Traditions and affiliations

Welsh Guardsmen in full dress are distinguished by the white/green/white plume on their bearskins The Welsh Guards (8658942540).jpg
Welsh Guardsmen in full dress are distinguished by the white/green/white plume on their bearskins

The Welsh Guards and other Guards regiments have a long-standing connection to The Parachute Regiment. Guardsman who have completed P company are transferred into the Guards Parachute Platoon which is currently attached to 3 PARA, maintaining a tradition of the No 1 (Guards) Independent Parachute Company—the original Pathfinder Group of the 16th Parachute Brigade, now renamed the 16th Air Assault Brigade. [34]

The 3rd Battalion the Royal Welsh from the Army Reserve is paired with 1st Battalion Welsh Guards and will deploy on future Operations with them. [35]

One way to distinguish between the regiments of Foot Guards is the spacing of buttons on the tunic. The Welsh Guards, the fifth regiment in seniority, have buttons arranged in groups of five. [36]

In 1810, the British Army introduced metal rank insignia for field officers (majors and colonels) and generals. This was an arrangement of Stars and Crowns. The "Star" (nicknamed a "pip") was actually a raised diamond shape similar to the Knight Grand Cross star of the Order of the Garter. In 1855 metal insignia was introduced for subaltern officers (lieutenants and captains) and the star was changed to that of the Order of the Bath. In 1855 the Grenadier Guards and Coldstream Guards were granted Order of the Garter "pips" and the Scots-Fusilier Guards received Order of the Thistle "pips" for their service in the Crimean War. In 1919 the Irish Guards and Welsh Guards, the two newest regiments of the Brigade of Guards, received distinctive "pips" of their own for their service in World War One. The "pips" worn by officers in the Welsh Guards contain a Leek in the centre surrounded by a circle inscribed with the regimental motto Cymru am Byth ("Wales forever"). It is the only Guards regiment that does not have a Knightly Order badge on its Stars. [37]

Battle honours

The Welsh Guards have been awarded the following battle honours: [38]

First World War

Loos, Somme 1916 '18, Ginchy, Flers Courcelette, Morval, Ypres 1917, Pilckem, Poelcappelle, Passchendaele, Cambrai 1917 '18, Bapaume 1918, Arras 1918, Albert 1918, Drocourt-Quéant, Hindenburg Line, Havrincourt, Canal Du Nord, Selle, Sambre, France and Flanders 1915–18

Second World War

Defence of Arras, Boulogne 1940, St Omer-La Bassée, Bourguébus Ridge, Cagny, Mont Pincon, Brussels, Hechtel, Nederrijn, Rhineland, Lingen, North-West Europe 1940 '44–45, Fondouk, Djebel el Rhorab, Tunis, Hammam Lif, North Africa 1943, Monte Ornito, Liri Valley, Monte Piccolo, Capture of Perugia, Arezzo, Advance to Florence, Gothic Line, Battaglia, Italy 1944–45

Post Second World War

Falkland Islands 1982

Victoria Cross recipients

Order of precedence

Preceded by
Irish Guards
Infantry Order of Precedence Succeeded by
Royal Regiment of Scotland


See also

Related Research Articles

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Further reading