RCAF guards Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in United Kingdom

A group of military personnel march down a wide road, with a palace in the background.
Flanked by the Union Jack and Royal Air Force flags on June 27, 2018, the Royal Canadian Air Force Band leads a portion of the RCAF Public Duties contingent down The Mall from Buckingham Palace to St. James’s Palace where the contingent will mount guard for 24 hours. The RCAF is in the United Kingdom to perform Public Duties for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force. PHOTO: Corporal François Charest, VH2018-0045-0464

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From RCAF Public Affairs

They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace—
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
We saw a guard in a sentry box.
‘One of the sergeants looks after their socks,”
Says Alice.

By A.A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh

If Alice and Christopher Robin were to go down to Buckingham Palace—or Windsor Castle, or St. James’s Palace or even the Tower of London—this summer, the guard they would see might be from the Royal Canadian Air Force.

It’s the first time in its 94-year history that the RCAF has been asked to perform “Public Duties” for her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Approximately 120 RCAF personnel, including the RCAF Band, are in the United Kingdom this summer to undertake the prestigious and very visible role that is always immensely popular with spectators. It’s the first time that a Canadian non-infantry military contingent has undertaken the task.

The Queen’s Guard, as the group will be called while performing Public Duties, are military personnel charged, in support of the civil authorities, with guarding the Sovereign and the official royal residences in the United Kingdom.

“We are on duty on several occasions, each time for 24 hours,” Major Véronique Gagné, Public Duties Air Task Force commander, told the U.K.’s Forces Network. “Each period begins and ends with a changing of the guard ceremony and then we perform sentry duties.”

The RCAF mounted the guard for the first time at Buckingham Palace in London, England, on June 25, 2018. The RCAF presence at the Palace and other locations is sure to be of great interest to residents and tourists alike. Even the Royal Family is taking an interest: “The Royal Family” Twitter account tweeted a video of the June 25 ceremony.

Before travelling to London, the contingent trained for six weeks in Winnipeg, Manitoba, to hone their drill capabilities, followed by a rigorous inspection in London by the United Kingdom Household Division. Brigade Major Lieutenant-Colonel Guy Stone inspected the team’s uniforms, drill movements and ceremonial movements and deemed the team fit to conduct Public Duties on June 21.

“They achieved very, very high standards,” said Colour Sergeant Alistair Wigley of the Irish Guards, one of those assessing the RCAF contingent, “and it was commented on by the brigade major and the garrison sergeant major.”

Major Dave Meister, the contingent’s public affairs officer, told the Forces Network that passing the “fit for role” inspection was an incredible moment. “You could feel the excitement in the air from the people that were part of the parade, and they are just so proud to be representing Canada. It’s fantastic.”

The RCAF will be carrying out Public Duties until July 15. In addition to guarding the royal residences, the contingent will participate in ceremonial events celebrating the Royal Air Force’s 100th anniversary.

On July 4, the Canadian Armed Forces will be granted the Freedom of Entry to the Town of Folkestone. In celebration of this significant honour, the RCAF contingent will parade through the town. During the Second World War, RCAF personnel flew from the nearby RAF Hawkinge air station. Following the parade, the RCAF contingent will also be laying poppies on the graves of 305 Canadian soldiers at Shorncliffe Military Cemetery nearby.

RELATED LINKS

RCAF Public Duties in the U.K.

The Household Division: Changing of the Guard

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