THE Coldstream Guards are one of the insitutions Berwickshire can be most proud of and television viewers will get to see why when the regiment takes pride of place in a BBC programme on Tuesday night.
‘Regimental Stories’ has been delighting BBC Four viewers for the past month, going behind the scenes with the likes of the Parachute Regiment and The Royal Tank Regiment and the Guards have the honour of closing the series when they feature in its fifth and final episode.
The Coldstream Guards are the longest continuously serving regiment in the British Army, and narrated by British actor Sean Pertwee, the programme, being aired at 8.30pm on Tuesday, will go behind the scenes with the soldiers involved in Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace.
Insights include how the soldiers shampoo their bearskin and the extraordinary lengths they go to with a blowtorch and some beeswax to get the required shine for their boots.
And then there’s the small matter of the Guards preparing for a certain ceremonial occasion - the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Formed from the separate companies of the then Governor of Berwick, Colonel George Fenwick and his father-in-law Sir Arthur Hasselrigge, the regiment were originally intended to fight against the Crown in the English Civil War but they ended up journeying to London to play a decisive role in restoring the monarchy. Their reward was to become one of the King’s official Foot Guards and they continue to serve as a bodyguard to the Queen to this day.
They’ve become famous around the world for their scarlet tunics, bearskin hats, and shiny boots. They are an unmistakeable part of the British landscape, as iconic as the Tower of London or a London bus.
Although the Coldstream Guards are a famous ceremonial regiment, they also serve as frontline soldiers. Their contribution at the Battle of Waterloo, defending the strategically important farm house at Hougoumont, has become military legend.
More recently the Coldstream Guards were in Afghanistan, where five members of the Regiment were killed in action. The soldiers of the regiment were rewarded for bravery with four Military Crosses – more than any other Battle Group on their tour of duty. This is the latest chapter in a history that inspires and motivates this long-serving regiment.
And as well as protecting the monarchy and fighting for their country on the front line, the last few years have also seen the regiment make a significant dent in the music charts, with a clutch of hit albums.
The Guards often return to their home, with a visit early last year seeing them set off from Coldstream to re-create their March to London during the Civil War.
In addition to using footage from Afghanistan and filming in the London, a BBC crew also travelled closer to home, doing some filming at Berwick Barracks.
The man appointed by the Coldstream Guards to liaise with the BBC was one of their own, Canon Alan Hughes of Berwick Parish Church.
In his own words, Canon Hughes has “been a proud Coldstreamer” since 1963 and said the regiment were thoroughly deserving of their TV tribute.
He told The Berwickshire News: “Producer Olly Buttle and his BBC crew were in the area for a few days, first filming in Berwick in the Parish Church where the memorial to Fenwick still stands along with the words ‘a good man is a public good.’ They then went onto Coldstream itself, taking their cameras down to the crossing point on the river.
“The programme has been a year in the making and I’m looking forward to watching it. Some people still have the misconception that the Coldstream Gaurds are ‘chocolate soldiers’ but they are certainly not.
“Yes, they do perform a lot of ceremonial duties at events like the Royal Wedding but they also fight for their country; I myself served in the Yemen and French Somalia during my four years of service.
“I am a proud Coldstreamer and whenever the guards come to the area I attend as exactly that rather than as vicar of Berwick.”