Guards serve the Queen

WO Tina von Schilling (right) on parade at Buckingham Palace.
Photo by MCpl William Boucher

RCAF Public Affairs/The Courier

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

If Christopher Robin and Alice were to go down to Buckingham Palace this summer — or Windsor Castle, or St. James’s Palace or even the Tower of London — 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 which 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 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 UK’s Forces Network. “Each period begins and ends with a changing of the guard ceremony, and then we perform sentry duties.”

Ten members from 4 Wing are in the RCAF contingent. They are:
• WO von Schilling, 10 FTTS
• WO Duggleby, 4 Wing Band
• MCpl Mate, 401 Squadron
• Cpl Harding, 401 Squadron
• Cpl Wilcox, 410 Squadron
• Cpl Dugas, 410 Squadron
• Cpl Daniel, 409 SQuadron
• Cpl Wilson, 409 Squadron
• Cpl Gagnon, 409 Squadron
• Cpl Pimentel Burgos, 401 Squadron

The RCAF mounted the guard for the first time at Buckingham Palace on June 25. The RCAF presence at the palace and other locations is sure to be of great interest to residents and tourists, and 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 honed their drill for six weeks in Winnipeg, 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 on June 21 deemed the team fit to conduct Public Duties.

4 Wing Bandmaster WO Jeremy Duggleby is augmenting the RCAF Band on the tour. “The initial rehearsals were difficult,” he said, “but the guard and band pulled through and are looking and sounding really good on parade,”.

“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.”

Maj 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.”
WO Duggleby began his military career with the Band of the Ceremonial Guard in Ottawa, performing the Changing the Guard ceremony every morning on Parliament Hill. He said Buckingham Palace is an even bigger deal.

“The crowds at this time of year are at least as big every day as some of the largest I ever saw on Parliament Hill, with the exception of Canada Day,” he said. “Marching onto the grounds of Buckingham Palace for the first time was a bit nerve-racking, but exciting.”

The RCAF will carry 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 were granted the Freedom of Entry to the Town of Folkestone. In celebration of this significant honour, the RCAF contingent paraded through the town. During the Second World War, RCAF personnel flew from the nearby RAF Hawkinge air station. Following the parade, the RCAF contingent laid poppies on the graves of 305 Canadian soldiers at Shorncliffe Military Cemetery nearby.


Guards serve the Queen

Spectators gather around the Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard on June 25. The RCAF took on the duties of guarding Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for the first time in its history.
Photo by MCpl William Boucher


Guards serve the Queen

The RCAF Public Duties contingent assembles for a photo following a highly successful “fit for role” inspection by the Household Division on June 21.
Photo by Cpl François Charest