98: Guards Battalions & Welsh Guards Badges

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Welsh Guards Badges

The Welsh Guards (WG) (Welsh Gwarchodlu Cymreig) is an infantry regiment of the British Army, part of the Guards Division.

Creation in War

The Welsh Guards came into existence on February 26, 1915 by Royal Warrant of His Majesty King George V in order to include Wales in the national component to the Foot Guards, “..though the order to raise the regiment had been given by the King to Earl Kitchener, Secretary of State for War, on February 6, 1915.” They were the last of the Guards to be created, with the Irish Guards coming into being in 1900. Just two days later, the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards mounted its first King’s Guard at Buckingham Palace on 1 March 1915 – St David’s Day.

Welsh Guards by Harry Payne (1858-1927)

One way to distinguish between the regiments of Foot Guards is the spacing of buttons on the tunic. The Welsh Guards have buttons arranged in groups of five.

On August 17, 1915 the 1st Battalion sailed for France to join the Guards Division to commence its participation in the First World War. Its first battle was some months after its initial arrival, at Loos on September 27, 1915. The regiment’s first Victoria Cross came two years later in July 1917 awarded to Sergeant Robert Bye.


Soon after the end of the war in 1918 the 1st Welsh Guards returned home and where they would be based for much of the inter-war period, performing training and ceremonial duties, such as the Changing of the Guard and Trooping the Colour. In 1929 the 1st Welsh Guards deployed to Egypt where they joined the Cairo Brigade where they stayed for only a brief period of time, returning home in 1930. Just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War the 1st Welsh Guards were dispatched to Gibraltar where they remained upon the outbreak of war in September 1939.

Second World War

The regiment was increased to three Battalions during the Second World War. The 1st Battalion fought valiantly in all the campaigns of the North-West European Theatre. The 2nd Battalion fought in Boulogne in 1940 whilst the 1st fought in Belgium as part of the British Expeditionary Force. In May 1940 at the Battle of Arras, the Welsh Guards gained their second Victoria Cross by Lieutenant The Hon. Christopher Furness who was killed in the action. The Welsh Guards were subsequently part of the legendary Evacuation of Dunkirk that saw over 340,000 British and French troops return to the UK against all odds. In 1943 the 3rd Battalion fought throughout the arduous Tunisian North African Campaign and Italian Campaigns.

While they battled on in those theatres the 1st and 2nd joined the Guards Armoured Division, with the 1st Battalion being infantry and the 2nd armoured. The two battalions worked closely, being the first troops to re-enter Brussels on September 3, 1944 after an advance of 100 miles in one day in what was described as ‘an armoured lash unequalled for speed in this or any other war’.


Shortly after the end of the war the 3rd Battalion was disbanded while the 2nd Battalion was placed in suspended animation. In 1947 the 1st Welsh Guards were dispatched to Palestine, then under British control, while it was in a volatile and violent situation. The Welsh Guards were part of the 1st Guards Brigade and performed internal security (IS) duties while there, before leaving in 1948 during the British withdrawal and when the state of Israel was declared.

In 1950 the regiment arrived in West Germany as part of the 4th Guards Brigade, part of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR). In 1952 the regiment joined the Berlin Brigade in West Berlin, an enclave in Communist East Germany during tense times between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Warsaw Pact. The Welsh Guards returned home the following year and soon after deployed to the British-controlled Suez Canal Zone (SEZ) in Egypt. As previously in Palestine, the Welsh Guards’ time in Egypt was quite turbulent. They performed internal security duties there. They remained in the SEZ until the British withdrawal in 1956. Shortly afterwards the British Army would be embroiled in the Suez War with Egypt, though the Welsh Guards were not to involved directly.

In 1960 the regiment deployed to West Germany again, and in 1965 to Aden, another part of the declining British Empire. They were to return home the following year. In 1970 the regiment arrived again in West Germany, this time at Munster, as part of 4th Armoured Brigade.

In 1972 came deployment to Northern Ireland, then embroiled in violence later known as “The Troubles“. During its tour of duty the regiment lost Sergeant Phillip Price in a terrorist attack by the Provisional Irish Republican Army on the Oxford Street Bus Depot in Belfast, one of a series of terrorist attacks in the city which became known as “Bloody Friday“. The following year the Welsh Guards were dispatched to the province again and during this period lost Guardsman David Roberts in a landmine explosion.

In 1976 the Welsh Guards were part of the British contingent of the United Nations force deployed to Cyprus in the aftermath of the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974.

In 1977 the regiment arrived in West Berlin again, and then in 1979 once more in the midst of the volatile situation in Northern Ireland, they lost Guardsman Paul Fryer to a booby trap bomb. On 9 July 1981, Daniel Barrett, aged 15 years, was sitting on the garden wall of his home in Havana Court, Ardoyne, North Belfast, when he was shot dead by a soldier of the Welsh Guards.

Falklands War

In 1982, the Welsh Guards (CO Lieutenant-Colonel John Rickett) formed part of the 5th Infantry Brigade of the British Task Force sent to liberate the Falkland Islands from Argentinian occupation during the Falklands War. On 7 June they were on board the ill-fated Sir Galahad, which was accompanied by Sir Tristram, waiting to be landed at Bluff Cove though they were delayed from doing so. However, attack was imminent after the landing craft were spotted by Argentinian observers. At 2:00 am, five Dagger and five A-4 Skyhawk aircraft were seen over the Falklands. Shortly afterwards, the Daggers were the first to attack. They hit the frigate HMS Plymouth with cannon fire as well as bombs.

Only a short time later, the Skyhawks reached Fitzroy, with three of the aircraft hitting the Sir Galahad two or more times with horrific consequences. Sir Tristram was also hit which killed two crewmen, both ships were ablaze. The attack on Sir Galahad culminated in dreadfully high casualties, 48 dead, 32 of them Welsh Guards, 11 other Army personnel and five crewmen from Sir Galahad herself. There were many wounded, many suffering from horrendous burns caused by fire from the burning ships most notably, Simon Weston. The burnt-out Sir Galahad was later scuttled at sea to allow her to become a war grave. Sir Tristram herself was repaired and rebuilt in 1985.

The Welsh Guards returned home soon after the war concluded. They had performed with valour and courage in their involvement in a war 8,000 miles from home, all the more astonishing with the fact they were more adjusted to the numerous ceremonial duties they performed in London. Members of the regiment were awarded 1 Military Cross (MC) and 3 Military Medals (MM). The regiment’ was awarded the theatre honour “Falkland Islands 1982”.

See Casualties of the Battle of Bluff Cove

Present day

Welsh Guardsman outside the Jewel House at the Tower of London.

In 1984 the Welsh Guards arrived in Hohne, West Germany as part of the 22nd Armoured Brigade and two years later arrived in Northern Ireland for another tour-of-duty before returning to Germany. The regiment returned home in 1988 and in 1992 arrived in NI for a 2-year deployment as part of 8th Infantry Brigade.

In October 1995 In the Company of Men, Three 1 hour documentary films by Molly Dineen about “The Prince of Wales” company of the Welsh Guards on a tour of duty in Northern Ireland was screened on BBC 2 Television.

On September 6, 1997, 12 Guardsmen of the Welsh Guards led by the adjutant of the 1st Battalion “The Prince of Wales” Company, Captain Richard Williams, hero in 1993 of the Khmer Rouge incident in which he was captured defending civilians there, were pulled from security patrols in South Armagh, Northern Ireland and together with members of the King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery escorted the casket of Diana, Princess of Wales, from Kensington Palace to Westminster Abbey.

In 2002 the regiment arrived in Bosnia as part of SFOR, a NATO-led force intended to ensure peace and stability in the Balkan nation. During their deployment HM the Queen Mother died. A number of officers of the Welsh Guards stood in vigil around the Queen Mother’s coffin which was lying in state in Westminster Hall, one of a number of regiments to do so. The regiment returned home from their deployment to Bosnia later in the year. They were involved in Operation Fresco, the British armed forces response to the firefighters strike; the Welsh Guards covered the Midlands area, primarily in Birmingham using the antiquated Army Green Goddess fire engines.

In 2003 the Welsh Guards experienced a unique moment in the their history when they moved from Aldershot to RAF St Athan, Wales the first time the regiment has actually been based on home soil in Wales.

In 2005 The Welsh Guards were part of Operation Telic and were based in Basra, Southern Iraq. Here they used valuable relationship-building skills, learnt from their time in Bosnia, to build a bond between the regiment and the locals.

In 2006, the regiment returned to London as a public duties battalion. It will alternate this role with the Grenadier Guards. The regiment deployed to Bosnia in October 2006, replacing the 2nd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment. In November 2007, the regiment deployed to Belize at short notice to take part in Jungle warfare training, they returned just before Christmas.

In 2008, the Welsh Guards moved from London to Lille Barracks in Aldershot, in preparation for deployment on Operation Herrick 10 in Afghanistan in April 2009.

In April 2009 the Welsh Guards deployed on Operation Herrick 10 in Afghanistan and have to date lost six members of the Battalion. Firstly, L/Sgt Tobie Fasfous who died whilst taking part in a reassurance foot patrol alongside the Afghan National Army in the vicinity of Forward Operating Base Keenan, north east of Gereshk in Helmand province, when he was killed in an explosion.

Secondly, Lt. Mark Evison who died whilst leading a patrol which came under enemy fire. He was hit in the shoulder by a single round, and was evacuated back to the hospital in Camp Bastion but despite the best medical treatment available, showed no sign of recovering. Consequently he was flown back to Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham. His family were with him when he died. Major Sean Birchall, OC Number IX Company, was killed by an explosion whilst on patrol in Basharan, near Lashkar Gah, in Helmand province, on June 19, 2009.

On July 1, 2009, Lieutenant-Colonel Rupert Thorneloe was killed, alongside Trooper Joshua Hammond of the Second Royal Tank Regiment, following the detonation of an IED in Afghanistan under their BvS 10 Viking. Lieutenant-Colonel Thorneloe was the highest ranking British Army officer killed since Lieutenant-Colonel ‘H’. Jones VC OBE, in the Falkland Islands[1].

On July 5, 2009, Lance Corporal Dane Elson, Aged 22, was killed, following the detonation of an IED in Afghanistan. His death brings the number of Welsh Guardsmen killed in Afghanistan to five.

On July 10, 2009, it was announced that Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Antelme DSO, will take over command of the Welsh Guards from Lieutenant-Colonel Rupert Thorneloe who died on the 1st July 2009.

On May 9, 2010, for the first time, British troops marched in Red Square to mark 65 years since the end of WWII. A detachment from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards and the Central Band of the Royal Air Force participated in a joint parade with war time allies – Russia, US, France, Poland.

Battle honours

First World War:

Loos, Bapaume 1918, Somme 1916–1918, Arras 1918, Ginchy, Albert 1918, Flers-Courcelette, Drocourt-Quéant, Morval, Hindenburg Line, Ypres 1917, Havrincourt, Pilckem, Canal Du Nord, Poelcappelle, Selle, Passchendaele, Sambre, Cambrai 1917–1918, France and Flanders 1915–1918

Second World War:

Defence of Arras, Djebel el Rhorab, Boulogne 1940, Tunis, St Omer-La-Bassee, Hammam Lif, Bourguebus Ridge, North Africa 1943, Cagny, Monte Ornito, Mont Pincon, Liri Valley, Brussels, Monte Piccolo, Hechtel, Capture of Perugia, Nederrijn, Arezzo, Lingen, Advance to Florence, Rhineland, Gothic Line, North West Europe 1940 and 1944–1945, Battaglia, Fondouk, Italy 1944–1945

Post Second World War

Falkland Islands 1982

Victoria Cross winners

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