For the first time since being made honorary Colonel in December 2022, the Princess of Wales has visited the 1st Battalion Irish Guards. She has taken over from her husband William, the Prince of Wales and met army personnel and watched training exercises on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire. Her Royal Highness was also shown a selection of the abundance of weapon systems used by the troops.
The 41-year-old princess could not have chosen a worse day weather wise, with bitterly cold temperatures and driving snow, but got stuck in nonetheless, taking part herself in battlefield casualty drills, delivering care to “injured” soldiers.
The Irish Guards were formed by Queen Victoria in 1900 and are experts in infantry combat. They are presently working alongside an international military training team in the UK, teaching Ukrainian Armed Forces some basic combat skills that they will require to defend their homeland.
Kate takes husband’s role
King Charles III in his position as monarch, is the Colonel in Chief of the regiment and appointed Princess Kate to the role of honorary Colonel after he made Prince William the new Colonel of the Welsh Guards.
Dressed for the occasion in camouflage gear and combat boots, the princess was invited to Salisbury to be introduced to the troops. Initially she was given a run down on the hugely impressive operational capabilities, before being given a tour of the training area by Major General Christopher Ghika, Commander of the Army in London, and the Household Division, and Lieutenant Colonel James Aldridge, Commander of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards.
It was explained to her that the Guards are part of the British Army’s 11th Security Force Assistance Brigade, which was formed in 2021 to train, advise and assist foreign forces. She heard how the units are routinely deployed all around the globe to help prevent conflict by enhancing the effectiveness of allied and partner nations.
Princess learns of troops manoeuvres
She then met with Guardsmen who have been recently operating across East Africa in tasks that include training park rangers on counter-poaching techniques. The soldiers relayed some of the incredible experiences which they had encountered whilst protecting wildlife in places such as Zambia, and preventing international criminal activity; as well as assisting in safeguarding against conflict and terrorist insurgency in areas of serious political and economic instability.
Moving on from one company to another, she then was briefed on anti-landmine training, where she was able to learn about anti-vehicle and personnel mine clearances, using equipment to detect explosives and improvised explosive devices (IED’s).
Tending to the “injured” soldiers
This was followed by a casualty simulation exercise which allowed the princess to get “hands-on” involvement in taking care of “injured” soldiers on the battlefield. In the drill, the story was that members of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards were on foot patrol when they came under heavy fire from an enemy.
The exercise involved a soldier suffering a gunshot wound to his lower leg and being evacuated from the scene by his colleagues.
Applying a tourniquet helps “save” life
Under the supervision of Lance Corporal Jodie Newell, Kate then proceeded to assist in administering what would be vital and potentially life-saving first aid to the “stricken” soldier. She was shown how to wrap the wound and check the casualty’s vital signs, before applying a tourniquet to his lower leg to stop the “bleeding”, before getting him moved onto a stretcher, where she then helped assess him for further injuries to his torso.
Typical of her gentle nature, the Princess apologised, saying to the soldier; “It’s the first time I’ve done this.” Showing a real appetite to gain as much understanding as she could, Kate then continued to ask a number of questions regarding different first aid methods and specific situations that might arise.
Nervous time for instructor
Lance Corporal Newell admitted afterwards that she was really anxious, but praised Kate’s efforts. “I was so nervous; I was teaching the Princess of Wales, but it was an honour and she was actually really good, and really eager to take part.” The Princess herself confessed that taking part in the military drills, with fake explosions and gun fire all around, really brought home to her the realities that soldiers have to face, stating “It just brought it all to life.”
Irish Guards’ fearsome reputation
Since their inception in 1900, brought about by order of Queen Victoria to commemorate the countrymen who bravely fought for the British Empire in the Second Boer War, the Irish Guards have fought in all the major conflicts, and in recent times led the British advance into Basra during the Iraq War in 2003 and were among the last units to be deployed to Afghanistan.
Their specialisms include reconnaissance, engaging enemy troops with machine guns and mortars, and anti-tank operations. They have established for themselves a formidable reputation operating in some of the world’s most hostile environments.
Uniform worn by William at new Colonel’s wedding
It was Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II who appointed William to the position of Colonel of the Irish Guards back in February of 2011. Just a few months later he chose to wear the uniform on his wedding day, little did his bride know that a dozen years later she would take on the role herself.
That was after William was made Colonel of the Welsh Guards. He and Kate visited the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards for their St David’s Day procession at the beginning of the month.