While the rest of us are enjoying Christmas Day at home, it’s business as usual for the Household Cavalry on Christmas Day — after all, someone has to guard The Queen. The guards get up early as usual and muck out the horses, who have the day off. The regimental hierarchy serve the soldiers ‘gunfire’, a noxious mix of coffee and whisky that is not for the faint-hearted. They also tuck into mince pies and chocolates, kindly donated by local businesses, including Harrods among others. The soldiers then sort out the horses as quickly as possible before being dismissed for their family celebrations at midday. The 12 horses and riders who have drawn the short straw on duty for the Queen’s Life Guard are confined to their base at Horse Guards on Whitehall until 11am on Boxing Day.
The guards start the morning with a fancy dress parade where the commanding officer awards the least monotonous duties to those who have made the most effort. Notable examples in the past have included the Phantom of the Opera, the annual favourite, Ninja Turtles, and a Santa-clad trooper once transformed his horse into Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The troopers then change into their state uniforms before taking up their positions, with the mounted guards rotating in one-hour shifts.
Between shifts, the soldiers are served a Christmas meal with all the trimmings, all in the spirit of trying to give the soldiers who are on duty at Horse Guards as good a time as possible in the circumstances.
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