The Queen has praised the efforts of a unique company from Britain’s most prestigious infantry regiment as she presented their colleagues with new colours.
The Grenadier Guards were welcomed to Buckingham Palace by the Queen, their Colonel-in-Chief, for a celebration of the historic fighting unit she described as serving with “great distinction” in recent years.
Within the setting of a palace garden party, the monarch inspected the Queen’s Company, Grenadier Guards, marked the centenary of the regiment’s Association and presented new colours to the unit’s Nijmegen Company.
As the soldiers, lined up in two rows on the lawn, and hundreds of their friends and families looked on, the Queen said: “I last inspected the Queen’s Company in 2003 and since then it has been at the forefront of operations in Bosnia, Iraq and most recently in Afghanistan.
“In all these theatres my Company has served with great distinction, especially so in Helmand Province recently. It has been a demanding period indeed, for Guardsmen of all ranks within my Company and for all those families who have so closely supported them.
“You should be rightly proud of your achievements.”
The regiment is famed for its ceremonial roles at events such as Trooping the Colour but they are also fighting soldiers and guardsmen from its 1st Battalion and others from Nijmegen Company served in Afghanistan last year.
During the deployment five Grenadiers were killed and 46 suffered serious injuries.
Among those who died was 23-year-old Lance Corporal James Ashworth, of the 1st Battalion posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
The Grenadier died on June 13 last year after crawling along being peppered with bullets to throw his last grenade at a sniper who had his team pinned down.
Under warm summer skies the Queen inspected the Queen’s Company, a unit of which she is personally Company Commander.
It has a unique role during the transition from one monarch to another as it provides pallbearers for the deceased King or Queen’s funeral and the Company’s camp colour is placed by the new sovereign on the coffin of the old, at the end of the funeral service.
The Queen’s Company is only inspected every ten years, and she walked past the first row of Grenadiers, immaculate in their scarlet tunics and bearskins.
Later the soldiers posed with the Queen for a formal photograph with the palace as the backdrop.
The Colours presented by the Queen to Nijmegen Company will be ceremonially “trooped” during the famous Queen’s birthday parade on Horse Guards next summer.
After the pomp and ceremony of the inspection and presentation the soldiers were able to relax with their guests at the garden party and enjoy afternoon tea.
Guardsman Leigh Mitchell, 24 from Birmingham, who was joined by his fiancee Marissa Farrell, 21, said: “This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, for most people this doesn’t happen as the Queen only inspects the Company once every ten years.
“There were a few nerves out there but it’s just drilled, drilled into us - it becomes second nature.”
Ms Mitchell, a student also from Birmingham said: “He served in Afghanistan last year I’m very proud of him, they went to hell and back out there.”