Game of Thrones Wasn’t the First Time

Sometimes the internet just takes notice of something and it becomes a viral hit. I’m not sure if 2.3 million views can be considered a viral hit these days, but I have been surprised to see all the attention a recent video of the Irish Guards Band playing the intro music to the Game of Thrones show. The video took place on July 15th during the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace. Being positioned left of the center gate indicates that the band would later lead a detachment of the new guard to St. James Palace. The blue plumes of Saint Patrick in their bearskins denote the band’s identity.

The popularity of this video comes from the contrast of the serious music the audience expects to hear and the popular culture reference that ends up being played. While British military bands are some of the best when it comes to traditional military music, these are modern, adaptable organizations that can provide small ensembles, jazz groups, rock bands or even full orchestras to meet the needs of the occasion. Sometimes, bands such as the Band of the Irish Guards will play something slightly out of place to amuse and entertain the large audience that gathers to watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony outside Buckingham Palace. Continue reading

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This is Not in London

Take a look at the Ceremonial Guard, now in Ottawa, Canada for the summer. They were recently inspected by the Governor General of Canada, David Johnston and can be seen changing the guard on Parliament Hill, guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and engaging in other events like Canada Day.

Members of the Ceremonial Guard march to Parliament Hill to change the guard

Many tourists in Ottawa might associate the scarlet tunics and bearskin caps with London but these uniforms have been worn by Canadian servicemen for many decades. However, it is no coincidence that British uniforms and traditions are found within the Canadian military given the strong, historical connection between the two countries.

The Ceremonial Guard, as it is now known, is a unit supported by The Governor General’s Foot Guards and the Canadian Grenadiers reserve regiments. From 1954 to 1969, the two reserve regiments were part of the larger Canadian Guards which modeled itself after the Household Foot Guards in the British Army. However, the use of bearskins in Canada goes back much farther than 1954.

Part One – Head of State Transport

I previously talked about the origins of Air Force One and its connection to the Kennedy administration. However, the President of the United States is not alone in having a dedicated airborne ride.

This will be a multi-post effort to catalogue the VIP aircraft of many nations. Try and take a look and see if your country is included.

Canada

The Canadian government has one CC-150 Polaris (Airbus A310) and eight CC-144s (Challenger business jets) for use by the Governor-General, Prime Minister, Royal Family and other VIPs.  There was something of a political controversy when the larger Airbus was repainted a few months ago from an air force grey to a more colorful livery.

A CC-150 Polaris with its new livery (Photo: Sergeant Vaughan Lightowler, Canadian Forces Combat Camera)

A CC-150 Polaris sporting a new livery (Photo: Sergeant Vaughan Lightowler, Canadian Forces Combat Camera)

Rarely photographed bedroom on Canada's VIP CC-150 Polaris (Photo: Master Corporal Marc-Andre Gaudreault, Canadian Forces Combat Camera)

Rarely photographed bedroom on Canada’s VIP CC-150 Polaris (Photo: Master Corporal Marc-Andre Gaudreault, Canadian Forces Combat Camera)

Continue reading

The US President’s Limousines Abroad

A US Presidential limousine in India (Photo: Paul Morse / White House)

I once got into a conversation with a friend about how the President of the United States travels outside of Washington. My friend seemed to think that a limousine company was hired for the president when he traveled. This is not the case, as any keen observer will tell you. Whether in Iowa or India, the US President is driven in a US Secret Service limousine or SUV with Washington, DC plates. These vehicles are heavily armored and custom made to US specifications. The Secret Service would never allow the president to travel in anything that wasn’t heavily armored. So how do they transport the vehicles to all parts of the world? The vehicles are sent ahead of any presidential trip on a C-17 Globemaster of C-5 Galaxy. In fact, all kinds of assets are sent ahead of the president including VH-60N helicopters to serve as Marine One. Continue reading

Why the Royal Navy Does Not Guard Buckingham Palace

(Photo: Maxine Davies/MOD)

Today the Royal Marines took up guard duties at Buckingham Palace and other locations around London to celebrate the 350th anniversary of their creation. The last time they guarded the palace was in 1986. Far more often, units of the British Army and Royal Air Force take up guard duties and, on occasion, military and police groups from Commonwealth nations also take part.

However, I have always wondered why the Royal Navy has never participating in guarding royal residences. I think I may have found the reason and like so many other strange things in the world of state ceremony, it comes from a few odd quirks in history.

Judges, magistrates and members of the armed forces in the UK still take an oath of allegiance to the sovereign. But the Royal Navy does not require an oath as it was established long ago by “sovereign’s prerogative.” I am guessing this means their allegiance need not be questioned but it also means it is not as explicitly stated as the other branches of the armed forces. While it may sound ridiculous, the reason the Royal Navy does not guard Buckingham Palace may be that they do not swear an oath to guard the sovereign in the same way as the other branches.

Busy Summer in the UK

Garter procession (Photo: Philip Allfrey)

Today was Garter Day at Windsor Castle. It is on this day that new members of the Order of the Garter are installed and a service is held at St. Georges Chapel. All members process on foot to the chapel in their velvet robes. The order is unique among other orders of chivalry because the members are selected by Her Majesty without input from the government. Other than royal members, the order tends to include retired military officers, those who have served in senior civil positions and other extraordinary people.

The Garter ceremony is just one of a host of ceremonies going on this summer over in the UK and France. In the last two weeks there has been the State Opening of Parliament, Official State Visit to France, the D-Day Commemorations, Trooping the Colour and the Garter ceremony. While not an official event, Royal Ascot starts tomorrow.

It seems the last big event in the UK for the summer will be the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. Look out for that in July.

How Air force One Got Its Distinctive Look

A modern VC-25B (747) as Air Force One (Photo: Elizabeth Slater/ U. S. Air Force)

As the media has paid recent attention to Air Force One, I thought I would take a few moments to discuss how this aircraft got its iconic livery and became a symbol of the president and the nation. Air Force One is an integral part of American state ceremony. It ferries the president to locations beyond Washington and takes him on foreign visits. The image of the president waving on the steps of the aircraft when he arrives or departs has become so iconic it has almost become obligatory. Often on foreign visits, an honor guard is found at the steps of the aircraft and dignitaries lined up to greet the president. Many would be surprised to find that the aircraft that transports the President was not always blue and white, in fact, it was once orange! Presidents Roosevelt and Truman flew in various propeller-driven aircraft and it wasn’t until the end of President Eisenhower’s first term that a set of jet-powered Boeing 707s were delivered to the U.S. Air Force. Like all VIP aircraft in the fleet, they were painted in a high visibility orange with the words “Military Air Transport Service” written on the side. There was really nothing indicating the importance of their mission or the person they carried. Continue reading