The Changing of the Guard ceremony has been performed at Windsor Castle for the first time since the pandemic began.
The 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards were given the honour of staging the event at the Queen’s Berkshire home in their familiar scarlet tunics and iconic bearskins.
Second Lieutenant Henry Turnbull, Captain of the New Guard at Windsor Castle, said the pandemic meant he was taking part in his first Changing of the Guard and the experience had been “really special”.
The officer, who is Platoon Commander Inkerman Company, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards and on a gap-year commission in the Army, added: “The guardsmen have been working really, really hard over the past few weeks to prepare for this special occasion – lots of bits of kit to prepare.
“And to take part in the first Ceremonial Guard Mount is really, really special, especially to have crowds back today with restrictions being lifted makes it extra special, nothing compares to marching up the street out in Windsor.”
The prestigious Household Division of the Army carries out state ceremonial and public duties such as Trooping the Colour, the State Opening of Parliament and mounting the Queen’s Guard at Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London and Windsor Castle.
But since March 2020, the Guardsmen of the Household Division have stopped all ceremonial activities to avoid gatherings of the public and help stop the spread of Covid-19.
During the pandemic, an “Administrative Guard Mount” was in operation where soldiers took up their sentry duty positions but ceremonies were not carried out as they changed over.
Guardsmen from the Household Division have been guarding the nation’s kings and queens since 1660 but they are also fighting soldiers who when not performing ceremonial duties are on operations or training.
During the pandemic, they remained busy manning Covid-19 testing sites and vaccine centres across the country and carrying out operational training.
Grenadier Guardsmen also took part in a revised version of the Queen’s Birthday Parade staged at Windsor and played a key role in the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh.
Hundreds of tourists were in the grounds of Windsor Castle to watch as the Changing of the Guard ceremony was staged for the first time since last March.
It is understood arrangements are being made for the ceremony to resume at Buckingham Palace in due course.
Second Lieutenant Thomas Hodson, Captain of the Old Guard at Windsor Castle, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards said: “It’s been quite nerve wracking as it’s my first Changing of the Guard, or any ceremonial duty, so there’s been quite a few butterflies, but I am really proud to lead the Old Guard and to lead the Guards back onto ceremonial duty.”