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Grenadier Guards
Grenadier Guards Capbadge.png
Cap Badge of the Grenadier Guards
Active 1656–Present; 363–364 years
Country  Kingdom of England
 Kingdom of Great Britain
 United Kingdom
Allegiance Elizabeth II
Branch British Army
Type Foot Guards
Role 1st Battalion - Public Duties
Nijmegan Company - Public Duties
Size One Light Infantry Battalion
Independent Company
Part of London District
Garrison/HQ RHQ: London
1st Battalion: Lille Barracks, Aldershot
Nijmegan Company: London
Nickname(s) Regimental: "The Bill Browns"
1st Batt: "The Dandies"
2nd Batt: "The Models"
3rd Batt: "The Ribs"
"Dum Dums"
Motto(s) "Honi soit qui mal y pense" (French)
"Shame be to he who thinks evil"
March Quick: The British Grenadiers
Slow: Scipio
Engagements Waterloo
Colonel in Chief HM The Queen
Battalion Commander Lieutenant Colonel Piers Ashfield
Plume White
Left side of Bearskin cap
Abbreviation GREN GDS

The Grenadier Guards (GREN GDS) is an infantry regiment of the British Army. It is the most senior regiment of the Guards Division and, as such, is the most senior regiment of infantry. It is not, however, the most senior regiment of the Army, this position being attributed to the Life Guards. Although the Coldstream Guards was formed before the Grenadier Guards, the regiment is ranked after the Grenadiers in seniority as, having been a regiment of the New Model Army, the Coldstream served the Crown for four fewer years than the Grenadiers (the Grenadiers having formed as a Royalist regiment in exile in 1656 and the Coldstream having sworn allegiance to the Crown upon the Restoration in 1660).


The Grenadier Guards traces its lineage back to 1656,[1] when Lord Wentworth's Regiment was raised in Bruges, in the Spanish Netherlands (current-day Belgium), where it formed a part of exiled King Charles II's bodyguard. A few years later, a similar regiment known as John Russell's Regiment of Guards was formed.[2] In 1665, these two regiments were combined to form the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards, consisting of 24 companies of men.[2] Since then the Grenadier Guards have served ten Kings and four Queens, including currently Queen Elizabeth II. Throughout the 18th century, the regiment took part in a number of campaigns including the War of Spanish Succession, the War of Austrian Succession and the Seven Years' War.[3] At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the regiment gained the name "Grenadier" in July 1815 following a Royal Proclamation, honouring their part in defeating Grenadiers of the French Imperial Guard at the Battle of Waterloo, thereby becoming the 1st (or Grenadier) Regiment of Foot Guards.[4]

Illustration of a Grenadier Guard, 1889

During the Victorian era, the regiment took part in the Crimean War, participating in the fighting at the Alma river, Inkerman, and Sevastopol.[5] For their involvement in the Crimean War, four members of the 3rd Battalion received the Victoria Cross.[6] Following the Cardwell Reforms, the regiment was renamed as the Grenadier Guards, the name which they keep to this day. Following this they were involved in the fighting at Battle of Tel el-Kebir during the Anglo-Egyptian War in 1882, and then the Mahdist War in Sudan, where its main involvement came at the Battle of Omdurman.[6] During the Second Boer War, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions were deployed to South Africa where they took part in a number of battles including the Battle of Modder River and the Battle of Belmont, as well as a number of smaller actions.[7] In 1900, 75 men from the regiment were used to raise a fourth Guards regiment, known as the Irish Guards in honour of the role that Irish regiments had played in the fighting in South Africa.[8]

At the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, the regiment consisted of three battalions.[9] With the commencement of hostilities the regiment raised a service battalion, the 4th Battalion, and a reserve battalion known as the 5th (Reserve) Battalion, which was used to carry out ceremonial duties in London and Windsor during the war.[9] The 2nd Battalion of the regiment was sent to France in August,[10] and the 1st Battalion followed to Belgium in October. They took part in the early stages of the fighting during the period known as "Race to the Sea", during which time they were involved significantly at the First Battle of Ypres.[11] In February 1915, a fifth Guards regiment was raised, known as the Welsh Guards.[8] In recognition of the significant contribution Welshmen had made to the Grenadier Guards, the regiment transferred five officers and 634 other ranks to the newly formed unit.[12] A short time later, permission was received for the formation of the Guards Division, the brainchild of Lord Kitchener, and on 18 August 1915, the division came into existence, consisting of three brigades, each with four battalions.[8][13] Following this the four service battalions of the regiment fought in a number of significant battles including Loos, the Somme, Cambrai, Arras and the Hindenburg Line.[14] Seven members of the regiment received the Victoria Cross during the war.[7]

Following the Armistice with Germany in November 1918, the regiment returned to just three battalions which were used in a variety of roles, serving at home in the United Kingdom, as well as in France, Turkey and Egypt.[15]

During the Second World War the regiment was expanded to six service battalions, with the re-raising of the 4th Battalion, and the establishment of the 5th and 6th Battalions.[16] The Grenadier Guards' first involvement in the war came in the early stages of the fighting when all three regular battalions were sent to France in late 1939 as part of the British Expeditionary Force.[17] As the BEF was pushed back by the German blitzkrieg, these battalions played a considerable role in maintaining the British Army's reputation during the withdrawal phase of the campaign before being themselves evacuated from Dunkirk.[17] After this they returned to the United Kingdom where they undertook defensive duties in anticipation of a possible invasion. Later, in 1941, there was a need to increase the number of armoured and motorised units in the British Army and as a result the 2nd and 4th Battalions were re-equipped with tanks, while the 1st Battalion was motorised.[18] They subsequently served in the Guards Armoured Division[19] and 6th Guards Tank Brigade in Western Europe in 1944–45.[20] The 3rd, 5th and 6th Battalions also served in North Africa, where they fought significant battles in the Medjez-el-Bab and along the Mareth Line, and in Italy at Salerno, Monte Camino, Anzio, and along the Gothic Line.[17][21] Throughout the course of the conflict two Grenadiers received the Victoria Cross.[7]

In June 1945, following the end of hostilities, the 2nd and 4th Battalions gave up their tanks and returned to the infantry role.[22] The regiment returned to three battalions at this time, with the 4th and 5th Battalions being disbanded along with the 6th which had been removed from the order of battle before the end of the war.[23] Initially, they were employed on occupation duties in Germany, however, the 3rd Battalion was deployed shortly aftwards to Palestine where they attempted to keep the peace until May 1948 when they were replaced by 1st Battalion. Further deployments came to Malaya in 1949, Tripoli in 1951 and Cyprus in 1956.[24] In 1960, shortly after returning from Cyprus, the 3rd Battalion paraded for the last time[25] and was subsequently placed in suspended animation. In order to maintain the battalion's customs and traditions, one of its companies, the Inkerman Company, was incorporated into the 1st Battalion.[26]

Sentry of the Grenadier Guards outside St James' Palace

Since the mid-1960s, the 1st and 2nd Battalions deployed to Africa, South America and Northern Ireland where they undertook peacekeeping duties. They also undertook duties as part of the NATO force stationed in Germany during the Cold War.[27] In 1991, the 1st Battalion, which had been serving in Germany at the time, was deployed to the Middle East where it took part in the Persian Gulf War mounted in Warrior armoured personnel carriers, before returning for a six-month tour of Northern Ireland.[26]

In 1994, under the Options for Change reforms, the Grenadier Guards was reduced to a single battalion. The 2nd Battalion was put into 'suspended animation', and its colours passed for safekeeping to a newly formed independent company, which was named "The Nijmegen Company".[28] As a result of this the regiment was reduced to its current composition: one full battalion, the 1st Battalion, consisting of three rifle companies, a support company and a headquarters company, based at Wellington Barracks, London, and one independent company, The Nijmegen Company.[28] The Queen, as Colonel-in-Chief, presented new colours to the Nijmegen Company in 2013.[29]

Under the Army 2020 reforms the battalion moves from the 12th Mechanised Brigade to 11th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters South East and based at Lille Barracks, Aldershot Garrison.

From late 2018 to early 2019 the entire 1st battalion was deployed across the globe. Notably - Inkerman Company and Corps of Drums in South Sudan, Queen's Company in Afghanistan, and No. 2 Company in Iraq. The medals were awarded on parade in Windsor Castle due to the massive expansive reaches the battalion had reached. The regiment's colonel-in-chief, The Duke of York awarded the medals on 22 March 2019. Under the Army 2020 Refine, the battalion has now (since late 2019) remained on permanent public duties until 2023 when it will rotate roles with another guards battalion.[30][31]


The Queen's Company of the Grenadier Guards traditionally provides the pallbearers for all dead monarchs. This company is also the senior company in the regiment, and takes the name of the reigning monarch, whether that's King's or Queen's Company.

The Grenadier Guards and other Guards regiments have a longstanding connection to The Parachute Regiment. Guardsman who have completed P Company are transferred into the Guards Parachute Platoon, which is currently attached to the 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment. The Guards Parachute Platoon maintains the tradition established by the No 1 (Guards) Independent Parachute Company that was part of the original Pathfinder Group of 16th Parachute Brigade, which has since been designated as the 16th Air Assault Brigade.[32]


The current structure of the regiment and affiliated band:

Battle honours

Edward Barber, one of 14 members of the Grenadier Guards who have received the Victoria Cross

The 1st Foot Guards have received 79 battle honours,[28] which they gained for their involvement in the following conflicts:


The grouping of buttons on the tunic is a common way to distinguish between the regiments of Foot Guards. Grenadier Guards' buttons are equally spaced and embossed with the Royal Cypher reversed and interlaced surrounded by the Royal Garter bearing the royal motto Honi soit qui mal y pense (Evil be to him who evil thinks). Their "Buff Belt" brass clasps also carry the Royal Cypher. Modern Grenadier Guardsmen wear a cap badge of a "grenade fired proper" with seventeen flames. This cap badge has to be cleaned twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, as it is made from brass and a tarnished grenade is frowned upon by all in the regiment.


Recruits practicing drill on Catterick parade square

Recruits to the Guards Division go through a thirty-week gruelling training programme at the Infantry Training Centre (ITC). The training is two weeks more than the training for the Regular line infantry regiments of the British Army; the extra training, carried out throughout the course, is devoted to drill and ceremonies.[36]

Junior Soldiers going through the 'Army Foundation College' at Harrogate will complete a 42-week phase 1 training course, and will then go on to complete a further 15 weeks at the Infantry Training Centre at Catterick.

Following graduation from the ITC, all guardsmen are assigned to Nijmegen Company for additional training and orientation before being posted to the 1st Battalion.[28]

The Colonel-in-chief alongside the Colonel of the Regiment in 2007.

Officers attend the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst for the forty-four week commissioning course, followed by the Platoon Commanders Battle Course in Brecon. Upon commission into the Grenadiers an officer becomes a platoon commander in the 1st Battalion and after two years will either be posted to Nijmegen Company for ceremonial duties or to ITC Catterick to train new guardsmen.[citation needed]


In addition to the nicknames provided in the infobox, all guards regiments are referred to the rest of the army as the "Marble Tops", "Wooden Tops", "Queen's Guards", "Toy Soldiers", and the "Red Boys".


The Grenadier Guards' various colonels-in-chief have generally been the British monarchs, including Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII, George VI, and currently Elizabeth II.


The barracks that the regiment has been:

1st Battalion

2nd Battalion

3rd Battalion

  • 1948—1948 Victoria Barracks
  • 1948—1949 Sungi Besi Camp
  • 1949—1951 Chelsea Barracks
  • 1951—1951 Zavia
  • 1951—1954 Tel-el-Kebir
  • 1954—1956 Chelsea Barracks
  • 1956—1956 Malta
  • 1956—1959 Tunisia Camp
  • 1959—March 1961 Wellington Barracks (Became Inkerman Company, 2nd Battalion, Later 1st Battalion No.3 Company) Permanent Suspended Animation


The following is a list of individuals who have served in the role of colonel of the regiment:[37]



"The British Grenadiers", the official Regimental Quick March of the Grenadier Guards, performed by the United States Army Band Strings ensemble

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The Regimental Slow March is the march Scipio,[38] from the opera of the same name by George Frideric Handel, inspired by the exploits of the Roman General Scipio Africanus. The first performance of Scipio was in 1726. Handel actually composed the eponymous slow march for the First Guards, presenting it to the regiment before he added it to the score of the opera.[39] The Quick March is The British Grenadiers.[38]


Both the 2nd Grenadier Guards F.C. and the 3rd Grenadier Guards F.C. enjoyed considerable success in the London League,[40][41] playing against the likes of West Ham United.[citation needed]

Cadet Force

There are a number of cadet units that are associated with the Grenadier Guards.


Order of precedence

The Grenadier Guards is the most senior regiment of the Infantry in the British Army[42]

Preceded by
First in Order of Precedence
Infantry Order of Precedence Succeeded by
Coldstream Guards

See also


  1. Colonel of Lord Wentworth's Regiment.[37]
  2. Colonel of John Russell's Regiment of Guards until united with Wentworth's Regiment in 1665.[37]
  1. Fraser 1998, p. 4
  2. 2.0 2.1 Fraser 1998, p. 6
  3. Fraser 1998, pp. 7–9
  4. Fraser 1998, p. 14
  5. Fraser 1998, pp. 14–15
  6. 6.0 6.1 Fraser 1998, p. 17
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Fraser 1998, p. 18
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Fraser 1998, p. 20
  9. 9.0 9.1 Chappell 1997, p. 4
  10. Craster & Jeffrey 1976, pp. 13–14
  11. Fraser 1998, p. 21
  12. Chappell 1997, p. 5
  13. Chappell 1997, p. 6
  14. Fraser 1998, pp. 19–22
  15. Fraser 1998, p. 22
  16. Fraser 1998, p. 23
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Fraser 1998, p. 24
  18. Forbes 1949, p. 59
  19. Forbes 1949, p. 56
  20. Chappell 1997, p. 28
  21. Nicholson 1949, pp. vii–ix
  22. Forbes 1949, p. 253
  23. Fraser 1998, p. 26
  24. Fraser 1998, pp. 26–27
  25. Fraser 1998, p. 28
  26. 26.0 26.1 "History of the Grenadier Guards". British Army. Retrieved 18 July 2010. 
  27. Fraser 1998, pp. 28–29
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 28.3 "Grenadier Guards". British Army. Retrieved 18 July 2010. 
  29. "Grenadier Guards honoured by the Queen at Buckingham Palace". 
  32. "No 1 (Guards) Independent Parachute Company". ParaData. Retrieved 10 January 2013. 
  33. "FOI(A) Response regarding RHQs for the British Army's Infantry Branch". 26 November 2020. 
  34. "Regimental Headquarters". 
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 "Privileges and Customs". Retrieved 30 November 2020. 
  36. "Combat Infantryman's Course – Foot Guards". British Army. Retrieved 10 January 2013. 
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 Fraser 1998, p. 39
  38. 38.0 38.1 Fraser 1998, p. 40
  39. Hanning 2006, p. 80
  40. "2nd Grenadier Guards". Football Club History Database. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  41. "3rd Grenadier Guards". Football Club History Database. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  42. Defence Instructions and Notices (DIN) 2007DIN09-027, The Precedence of Regiments and Corps in the Army and within the Infantry, August 2007.


  • Chappell, Mike (1997) [1995]. The Guards Divisions 1914–45. London: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-85532-546-2. 
  • Craster, Michael; Jeffrey, George Darell (1976). Fifteen Rounds a Minute: The Grenadiers at War – August to December 1914. London: Macmillan. ISBN 9780333196892. 
  • Forbes, Patrick (1949). The Grenadier Guards in the War of 1939–1945, Volume I: The Campaigns in North-West Europe. Aldershot: Gale & Polden. OCLC 4992796. 
  • Fraser, David (1998) [1978]. The Grenadier Guards. Men-at-Arms Series # 73. London: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 0-85045-284-8. 
  • Hanning, Henry (2006). The British Grenadiers: Three Hundred & Fifty Years of the First Regiment of Foot Guards 1656–2006. London: Pen and Sword Books Ltd. ISBN 1-84415-385-1. 
  • Nicholson, Nigel (1949). The Grenadier Guards in the War of 1939–1945, Volume II: The Mediterranean Campaigns. Aldershot: Gale & Polden. OCLC 4992796. 

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