At 10.40 and 23 seconds in the morning of 20th July 1982, the IRA bombed the Queen’s Life Guard as they rode through Knightsbridge to take up their duties at Horse Guards. This act of terrorism took place in Hyde Park, London, but it shocked the world. The mounted guard of 15 Household Cavalrymen from The Blues and Royals and their horses was on its way to change the guard at the official entrance to the Royal Palaces just as they had done every day for centuries, when a remote-controlled device was initiated, blasting nails and shrapnel into them with vicious force.
Four men and seven horses were killed, and many more injured.
Remarkably, some of the soldiers who survived the attack were back on duty just three days later and horses with catastrophic injuries made miraculous recoveries and lived to old age, including Sefton who went on to win the Horse of the Year Award.
Two hours later, on that fateful day in nearby Regent’s Park, the bandstand was the target of another terrorist attack by the IRA.
Seven Army bandsmen were killed and a further 24 injured during a concert by the Band of The Royal Green Jackets.
Eight members of the public, who were watching the performance, were also taken to hospital with injuries sustained in the attack.
Each year the survivors and their families hold a service at the memorials.
This year, as the Queen’s Life Guard rode out to change the Guard as their forebears did forty years ago, members of the Regiment made their way to the memorial off South Carriage Drive. They came in all manner of uniforms: ceremonial, combat uniform and coveralls, all in deliberate re-enactment of how, when the bomb hit, the regiment dropped whatever they were doing and rushed to the scene to help.
HRH The Princess Royal, Colonel of The Blues and Royals, and Brigadier Andrew Parker-Bowles who was the Commanding Officer Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment at the time of the bombing, attended the private, poignant service in the park.
Wreaths were laid and the names of those killed read out. The Queen’s Life Guard rode up to the memorial and performed a Royal Salute, lowering their Guidon (regimental flag) to HRH The Princess Royal as a fanfare was performed by the State Trumpeters of The Band of The Household Cavalry in their gold coats.
Four white roses were provided by the Regiment for the widows of those lost to place on the memorial.
Steve Sullivan was part of the Guard that day in 1982. He said: “It still hurts. There’s not been one day of my life since that day that I haven’t remembered something that went on. It’s always, always been part of my life ever since then.”
General Sir Barney White-Spunner was a Troop Leader in in 1982 and had swapped duties with Lieutenant Anthony Daly that day. Lieutenant Daly was killed by the bomb.
General Sir Barney White-Spunner said: “We must take every advantage of the opportunities their lives and sacrifice have given us. For me that is the true inspiration”.
On the forecourt of Buckingham Palace, during the Changing of the Guard ceremony, the Band of the Coldstream Guards performed the ‘Regimental Slow March of The Blues and Royals’ for The Household Cavalry, and ‘High on A Hill’. The latter was in tribute to their comrades in the Band of the Royal Green Jackets killed at the Regent’s Park Bombing on that same day 40 years ago.