Coldstream Guards recreate Monck's march to London

THREE hundred and fifty years ago General Monck and 6000 troops left a cold and frosty Coldstream to march to London where they helped restore the monarch to the throne, and a contingent of Coldstream Guards set out on exactly the same 425 mile journey in similar conditions last Wednesday, January 6, 2010.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 13th January 2010, 10:26 am
Updated Wednesday, 13th January 2010, 10:26 am

Led by Major James Coleby the 7th Company Coldstream Guards were given a rousing send off from Coldstream by local residents and 30 members of the Old Coldstream Corp of Drums who escorted them to Coldstream Bridge, as they headed for Berwick on the first leg of their 24 day journey.

The Corps of Drums, some of whom had travelled from as far away as the Isle of Wight, waited for the soldiers at the entrance to Henderson Park, where Brigadier Jonathan Bourne-May took the salute and formally requested permission to march on London.

"You have an ardous and challenging task ahead of you," Brigadier Bourne-May told the troops.

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"Monck's actions helped restore the monarchy to the throne. It was an act which was the cornerstone of the modern British army, and an act of great significance.

"For the Coldstreamers 350 years ago the weather was very similar, the chaplain at the time recorded that the frost was great and the snow greater and they saw no bare earth from here to London.

"You can console yourself that you aren't having to ford the Tweed. There was a bridge at the time but it wasn't big enough for all 6000 of them get over."

General George Monck's actions in taking his troops to London in the final days of Cromwell's rule, helped restore the monarchy, and Charles II, to the throne.

This earned him a dukedom and his army became known as the Coldstream Guards – today the oldest regiment of the British Army.

Brigadier Bourne-May went on to add that he had spoken to his counterpart with the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, currently in Afghanistan, who wished the soldiers good luck with their march south.

Also at the ceremony was the vicar of Berwick, Rev Alan Hughes who told the guardsmen that he had been sent by the Mayor and Freemen of Berwick to invite them to attend a service of welcome at Berwick Parish Church on the Wednesday evening "that we might honour your epic endeavour and pray for a safe and successful outcome, as you raise funds for The Army Benevolent Fund".

Rev Hughes, a former Coldstream Guard, said: "On January 1, 1660, 360 years ago this week, as heavy snow covered the ground and in biting wind, your forebears, led by General George Monck, plunged into the icy water of the River Tweed here at Coldstream to begin a 34 day march south to London to restore the Stuart throne.

"Charles II was restored as king, largely due to Monck's heroic men. Nicknamed 'The Coldstreamers', we were the only regiment to survive when the New Model Army was disbanded in 1661. Which is why we are the longest continuously serving regiment in the British Army.

"May God bless your endeavours, strengthen your fellowship and self-confidence in His name and smooth your paths in the coming weeks."

The Coldstream Guards are due to arrive at Tower Hill on January 30, all going well doing the journey eight days quicker than General Monck's men.

A number of the soldiers taking part in the march will be heading off for tour of duty in Afghanistan soon afterwards and this 400+ mile walk 'Exercise Enduring Guardsmen', undertaken in wintry weather, is part of their preparation to deal with conditions out there.

Helping them raise funds along the way - the aim is to raise 250,000 - will be Baxterbear, a mascot used to support nine, mainly military charities, one of which is the Army Benevolent Fund.

"On what has become almost a daily basis, an increasingly horrified public learns about yet another death of a heroic young soldier in Afghanistan," said a spokesperson for the charity.

"Less mentioned are the troops who return blinded, limbless and so profoundly changed that their lives will never be the same.

"It's for these reasons why the Army Benevolent Fund is so important. Money raised for this charity goes directly towards helping injured soldiers and to their families affected by the death or wounding of loved ones."

For every Baxterbear that is sold through the website www.baxterbear.com, 4 will be given directly to the Army Benevolent Fund.

Col. Simon Vandeleur said: "Baxterbear does all he can to make a difference to people's lives. He's always by your side and when you are far away from your family and friends, he becomes a much loved companion, listener and confidante – this bear brings a mountain of hope to so many."

The Old Coldstreamer Corps of Drums, playing fifes and drums, led the parade from Henderson Park down to Coldstream Bridge led by Sgt Colum Keenan, instructor at Catterick Army School of Ceremonial. They stepped aside when they reached the Scottish end of the bridge, and the soldiers were cheered on their way as they marched over onto English soil.

The band returned to the town centre where they gave a concert in the Newcastle Arms later the same morning, while the soldiers carried on their journey to Berwick.

When they left Berwick the following morning weather conditions were little better, and the young soldiers are definitely being tested, marching in one of the longest stretches of snow and ice the country has seen for some years.

Anyone wanting to make a donation in recognition of this epic march by the 90 Coldstream Guards can do so by visiting http://www.justgiving.com/coldstreammarch