Soldiers from the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (5RAR), took part in a day of celebrations involving the Prince and Princess of Wales in the UK.
CAPTION: Prince William presents a leek to a soldier from the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, during St David’s Day celebrations in Windsor, UK. Story by Captain Annie Richardson. Photo by Corporal Jonathan Goedhart.
The battalion was invited by its affiliated unit, the 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards, to mark St David’s Day on March 1 with its Colonel of the Regiment, Prince William, accompanied by Princess Catherine.
St David’s Day is a day of significance for Wales and the Welsh Guards, but it was also the Australian Army’s 122nd birthday and 5RAR’s 58th birthday.
The full-day event at Combermere Barracks, consisting of a parade, a rugby match and music from the Band of the Welsh Guards, was watched by families and veterans from the Welsh Guards Association.
On his first visit as the new Royal Colonel to the Welsh Guards, Prince William, along with his wife, took part in the tradition of passing out ceremonial leeks to the soldiers and their families.
The leek, a symbol of Welsh identity, has been associated with St David’s Day since the 6th Century, when, according to legend, Dark Age Welsh King Cadwallader advised Welsh soldiers to wear leeks on their helmets during a battle against the Saxons so they could easily distinguish friend from foe. The Welsh won the battle, making the leek a symbol of Welsh pride and patriotism.
Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, Lieutenant Colonel John Livesey, said St David’s Day was a key date for the Welsh Guards, as March 1, 1915, was the day “that we mounted our first King’s Guard and began our service to the Monarch”.
“It is particularly special and fitting that on St David’s Day we get to welcome His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, into the family as our new Royal Colonel,” Lieutenant Colonel Livesey said.
Prince William also presented the Australian soldiers with a leek and engaged in a quick discussion about their time away.
One of the soldiers, who cannot be named for security reasons, said the Prince and Princess were gracious and kind.
“They also made a fair few jokes about how we are finding the weather in United Kingdom and the differences from back home,” the soldier said.
CAPTION: Soldiers from the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, salute Prince William during the St David’s Day parade at Windsor, UK. Photo by Corporal Jonathan Goedhart.
Officer Commanding of the company on parade, Major Gregory Sargeant, said it was the first time a large contingent from the Australian battalion had visited its affiliated unit, the Welsh Guards, “let alone to spend it on such a key event”.
“It was a massive privilege to spend our special days together, but it was made even more special by the presence of the Prince and Princess of Wales, and the keen interest they showed in us and the Guards,” Major Sargeant said.
“Socialising with the Welsh Guards, discussing our unit histories and watching diggers and guardsmen get along like a house on fire was incredibly rewarding.
“Hopefully, one day we can return the favour and do something similar in Darwin.”