Suffolk’s airborne sappers are swapping bridge-building and water purification for the parade ground as they prepare to stand guard over the Royal Palaces.
23 Parachute Engineer Regiment is getting ready for a six-week stint of Ceremonial Public Duties which will see them guarding Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, St James Palace, and Windsor Castle from late January to March.
Last week, the sappers returned to Rock Barracks in Woodbridge after Christmas leave to start their training. They have undergone rigorous inspections of their uniform and practiced drill sequences under the watchful eyes of ceremonial experts from the Household Division. Their training continued in London this week ahead of the final ‘fit for role’ inspection to ensure that they meet the impeccable standard of drill and turnout the role demands.
The 110-strong detachment taking part comes from across the regiment, including troops from Maidstone-based 70 Gurkha Parachute Squadron and reservists from 299 Parachute Engineer Squadron.
Major Peter Dobinson said: “It is a real honour for the Regiment to perform Public Duties in the year that we celebrate our twentieth anniversary. Everyone is really motivated to put on our best show, but it has been a steep learning curve to get our ceremonial drill up to the incredibly high standard that is expected. We’ve had long days out on the parade square practicing our drill, with boots and buttons to polish in the evening.”
Sapper Tyler Alway grew up in Kesgrave near Ipswich and has been in 23 Para Engr Regt for seven months.
“This regiment is very focused on its operational role,” the 18-year-old driver said. “After arriving last summer, I was training for P Company and on exercise to learn the unit’s role and my place in that. To come back after Christmas to train for ceremonial duties has been both a change and a challenge.
“I’m proud to be doing this very prestigious duty and my family are already planning when they’re going to come up to see me standing guard at the Tower of London.”
23 Para Engr Regt’s core role is to provide close combat engineering support to 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team, the British Army’s global response forces, enabling it to fight, move and live. Its sappers are trained and equipped to deploy by parachute, helicopter or fixed wing aircraft.
Major Dobinson concluded: “Personally, it’s amazing to think that a few months ago I was in Brunei with the same troops working to upgrade helicopter landing sites in the jungle, and now we’re preparing to serve as the King’s Guard in the urban jungle of London!”