Royal Wedding: Northern Ireland soldier ready to guard Prince William and Kate Middleton on big day
He has fought in war zones across the world — and he returned from Afghanistan just a few weeks ago.
But this Northern Ireland soldier is about to face the most nerve-shredding task of his 24-year military career.
Sergeant Paul Stevenson (41), who serves with the 1st Battalion the Irish Guards, will have to push frontline duties to the back of his mind and concentrate on being a first-class ceremonial soldier when he takes charge of 18 men guarding Buckingham Palace during the Royal wedding next Friday.
“I’ll be the senior sergeant at Buckingham Palace and will be running the Queen’s Guard within the palace on the day of the wedding,” said Sgt Stevenson, who is from the village of Artigarvan in Co Tyrone.
“We will be part of the mounted guard prior to Catherine leaving Buckingham Palace.”
While parading at the palace may be nothing new for the Irish Guards — one of only five regiments charged with securing Royal residences — doing so for a global audience of two billion will increase the pressure.
“We’ll be there in case she gets cold feet,” he joked.
Sgt Stevenson, a father-of-two, has completed tours of duty in Iraq, Kosovo and Northern Ireland, and was part of a unit based at Camp Shorabak tasked with training Afghan National Army soldiers for six months.
He returned from his second tour of duty in Helmand just over a fortnight ago and has been rehearsing for the Royal wedding role for the past two days. “Logistical-wise it should be OK,” he said. “It’s something I have done plenty of times before. We’ve had plenty of rehearsals and there will be plenty of majors around the place on the day. So, fingers crossed, everything will go OK.
“I volunteered for the role as I thought it was a great privilege. I joined the Irish Guards for occasions like this.”
The Irish Guards, nicknamed the ‘Micks’, are heavily involved in ceremonial duties. And for the wedding will be dressed in their traditional red and black uniform complete with bearskin. So, unlike most of those watching, Sgt Stevenson is hoping there will not be too much sunshine.
He said: “The worst thing that could go wrong is if someone falls over on the day.
“In 2009 I carried the Queen’s colour on to the parade ground for the Queen’s birthday parade.
“But this is kind of different. I expect the place will be packed to the rafters.”
Meanwhile, Prince William and Kate Middleton are expected to present campaign medals to the Irish Guards recently returned from Afghanistan later this year.
Prince William was made regimental Colonel for the Irish Guards, which is based in Windsor, last month. The unit will be among 1,000 military personnel taking part in the Royal Wedding. They will be providing the Queen's Guard at Buckingham Palace, St James's Palace and the Tower of London all day, and will turn out for the departure of the Royal family from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey. The Guards have recently returned from training Afghan army soldiers in Helmand province.