Coldstream Guards

The Coldstream Guards

Regimental badge of the Coldstream Guards
Active 1650–present
Country  Commonwealth of England (1650–1660)
 Kingdom of England
 Kingdom of Great Britain (1707–1800)
 United Kingdom
Branch  British Army
Type Foot Guards
Role 1st Battalion Light infantry
No 7 Company Public Duties
Size One battalion
One independent company
Part of Guards Division
Garrison/HQ RHQ – London
1st Battalion Victoria Barracks, Windsor
No 7 Company – London
Nickname(s) The Lilywhites
Motto(s) "Nulli Secundus" (Latin)
"Second to None"
March Quick Milanollo
Slow Figaro ("Non più andrai" from The Marriage of Figaro)
Anniversaries St George's Day (April 23)
Engagements English Civil War
Monmouth Rebellion
War of the Spanish Succession
War of the Austrian Succession
Seven Years' War
American War of Independence
Napoleonic Wars
Crimean War
Second Boer War
The Great War
Second World War
Malayan Emergency
Mau Mau Uprising
Cyprus Emergency
Gulf War
Iraq War
Operation Herrick
Colonel in Chief HM The Queen
Colonel of
the Regiment
Lieutenant General Sir James Bucknall, KCB, CBE
Tactical Recognition Flash
Plume Red
Right side of Bearskin cap
Abbreviation COLDM GDS

The Coldstream Guards (COLDM GDS) is a part of the Guards Division,[1] Foot Guards regiments of the British Army.

It is the oldest regiment in the Regular Army in continuous active service,[2] originating in Coldstream, Scotland in 1650 when General George Monck founded the regiment. It is one of two regiments of the Household Division that can trace its lineage to the New Model Army, the other being the Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons).


The origin of The Coldstream Guards lies in the English Civil War when Oliver Cromwell gave Colonel George Monck permission to form his own regiment as part of the New Model Army. Monck took men from the regiments of George Fenwick and Sir Arthur Haselrig, five companies each, and on 23 August 1650 formed Monck's Regiment of Foot. Less than two weeks later this force took part in the Battle of Dunbar, at which the Roundheads defeated the forces of Charles Stuart.[3]

After Richard Cromwell's abdication, Monck gave his support to the Stuarts, and on 1 January 1660 he crossed the River Tweed into England at the village of Coldstream, from where he made a five-week march to London. He arrived in London on 2 February and helped in the Restoration of the monarchy. For his help, Monck was given the Order of the Garter and his regiment was assigned to keep order in London. However, the new parliament soon ordered his regiment to be disbanded with the other regiments of the New Model Army.[3]

Before that could happen, Parliament was forced to rely on the help of the regiment against the rebellion by the Fifth Monarchists led by Thomas Venner on 6 January 1661. The regiment successfully defeated the rebels and on 14 February the men of the regiment symbolically laid down their arms as part of the New Model Army and were immediately ordered to take them up again as a royal regiment of The Lord General's Regiment of Foot Guards, a part of the Household Troops.[4]

Lt Robert Orme {1756} by Sir Joshua Reynolds

The regiment was placed as the second senior regiment of Household Troops, as it entered the service of the Crown after the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards, but they answered to that by adopting the motto Nulli Secundus (Second to None), due to the fact that the regiment is older than the senior regiment. The regiment always stands on the left of the line when on parade with the rest of the Foot Guards, so standing "second to none". When Monck died in 1670, the Earl of Craven took command of the regiment and it adopted a new name, the Coldstream Regiment of Foot Guards.[3]

Crimean War – soldiers of the Coldstream Guards

The regiment saw active service in Flanders and in the Monmouth Rebellion, including the decisive Battle of Sedgemoor in 1685. After 1688 they fought in the Battle of Walcourt in 1689, the Battle of Landen and the Siege of Namur.[3]

In 1760, the 2nd Battalion was sent to Germany to campaign under Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick and fought in the Battle of Wilhelmstal and at the Castle of Amöneburg. Three Guards companies of 307 men under Coldstream commander Colonel Edward Mathew fought in the American Revolutionary War.[3]

The Coldstream Regiment saw extensive service in the wars against the French Revolution and in the Napoleonic Wars. Under the command of Sir Ralph Abercrombie they defeated French troops in Egypt. In 1807 they took part in the investment of Copenhagen. In January 1809 they sailed to Portugal to join the forces under Sir Arthur Wellesley. In 1814, they took part in the Battle of Bayonne, in France, where a cemetery keeps their memory. The 2nd Battalion joined the Walcheren Expedition. Later it served as part of the 2nd Guards Brigade in the chateau of Hougoumont on the outskirts of the Battle of Waterloo. This defence is considered one of the greatest achievements of the regiment, and an annual ceremony of "Hanging the Brick" is performed each year in the Sergeants' Mess to commemorate the efforts of Cpl James Graham and Lt-Col James Macdonnell, who shut the North Gate after a French attack.[5] The Duke of Wellington himself declared after the battle that "the success of the battle turned upon closing the gates at Hougoumont".[6]

The regiment was later part of the British occupation forces of Paris until 1816.[3]

During the Crimean War, The Coldstream Regiment fought in the battles of Alma, Inkerman and Sevastopol. On their return, four men of the regiment were awarded the newly instituted Victoria Cross.[3]

The regiment received its current name, The Coldstream Guards, in 1855. In 1882 they were sent to Egypt against the rebels of Ahmed 'Urabi and in 1885 in the Suakin Campaign. In 1897, the Coldstreamers were reinforced with the addition of the 3rd battalion. The 1st and 2nd battalions were dispatched to South Africa at the outbreak of the Second Boer War.[3]

At the outbreak of the First World War, Coldstreamers were among the first British regiments to arrive in France after Britain declared war on Germany. In the following battles, they suffered heavy losses, in two cases losing all their officers. At the first Battle of Ypres the 1st battalion was virtually annihilated – by 1 November down to 150 men and the Lt Quartermaster. They fought in Mons, Loos, Somme, Ginchy and in the 3rd Battle of Ypres. They also formed the 4th (Pioneer) Battalion, which was disbanded after the war, in 1919. The 5th Reserve battalion never left Britain before it was disbanded.[3]

When the Second World War began, the 1st and 2nd battalions of The Coldstream Guards were part of the British Expeditionary Force in France;[3] whilst the 3rd Battalion was on overseas service in the Middle East. Additional 4th and 5th battalions were also formed for the duration of the war. They fought extensively, as part of the Guards Armoured Division, in North Africa and Europe as dismounted infantry. The 4th battalion first became a motorized battalion in 1940 and then an armoured battalion in 1943.[7]

Coldstreamers gave up their tanks at the end of the war, the new battalions were disbanded, and the troops distributed to the 1st and 2nd Guard Training Battalions.[3]

World War II – 5th Coldstream enter Arras, 1 September 1944

After the war, the 1st and 3rd battalions served in Palestine. The 2nd battalion served in the Malayan Emergency. The 3rd battalion was placed in suspended animation in 1959. The remaining battalions served during the Mau Mau rebellion from 1959 to 1962, in Aden in 1964, in Mauritius in 1965, in the Cyprus Emergency in 1974 and several times in Northern Ireland after 1969.[3]

The Regimental Band of The Coldstream Guards were the first act on stage at the Wembley leg of the 1985 Live Aid charity concert. They played for the Prince and Princess of Wales.[8]

The 1st battalion was dispatched to the first Gulf War in 1991 where it was involved in prisoner of war handling and other roles. In 1993, due to defence cutbacks, the 2nd battalion was placed in suspended animation.[3]

For much of the 1990s, the 1st Battalion was stationed in Münster, Germany, in the Armoured Infantry Role with Warrior APCs as part of 4th Armoured Brigade. In 1993–1994 the battalion served as an armoured infantry battalion in peacekeeping duties in Bosnia as part of UNPROFOR.[3]

The battalion was posted to Londonderry, Northern Ireland on a two-year deployment in 2001. It then deployed to Iraq in April 2005 for a six-month tour with the rest of 12th Mechanised Brigade, based in the south of the country. The battalion lost two of its soldiers, on 2 May, near Al Amarah and on 18 October at Basra.[9]

Waterloo - Hougoumont plaque

Des Browne, Secretary of State for Defence, announced on 19 July 2007 that in October 2007 the battalion was to be sent to Afghanistan as part of 52 Infantry Brigade. In March 2008, while on patrol with the ANA, members of the Regiment discovered a Taliban torture chamber.[10]

In October 2009 the Battalion deployed on Operation Herrick 11, with units deploying to the Babaji area of central Helmand Province, Afghanistan, playing a major role in Operation Moshtarak in February 2010.[11]


Companies that make up the regiment are traditionally numbered – the 1st Battalion contains HQ Coy, plus No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 (Support) Coys. The Coldstream Guards Band and the staff of RHQ constitute No. 15 Coy. New officers destined for the regiment that are at Sandhurst or at ATC Pirbright form No. 13 Coy, while Guardsmen under training at ITC Catterick make up No. 14 Coy.[12] No. 7 Coy is one of the incremental companies formed to undertake public duties in London and Windsor, and maintains the colours and traditions of the former 2nd Battalion.[13] Currently the most prominent role of the 1st Battalion and No. 7 Company is the performance of ceremonial duties in London and Windsor as part of the Household Division. Operationally, The Coldstream Guards currently perform the role of light infantry. The 1st Battalion is based in Windsor at Victoria Barracks as an operational light infantry battalion.[13]

The Coldstream Guards laying up their old Colours and receiving the new Colours from Her Majesty The Queen

The Corps of Drums, in addition to their ceremonial role, which has been primarily the musical accompaniment of Changing of the Guard for Windsor Castle, has the role of machine gun platoon. All Guardsmen for public duties wear the 'Home Service' Dress tunic in summer or greatcoat in winter and bearskin with a red plume. The Coldstream Guards regimental band plays at Changing of The Guard, state visits and many other events.[13]

Unlike the other four regiments of foot guards, which recruit from each of the four home nations, the Coldstream Guards has a specific recruiting area, which encompasses the counties that Monck's Regiment passed through on its march from Coldstream to London. The traditional recruiting area of the Coldstream Guards is the South West and North East of England.[13]

The Coldstream Guards and other Guards Regiments have a long-standing connection to The Parachute Regiment. Guardsmen who have completed P company have the option to be posted to the Guards Parachute Platoon, 3 PARA still keeping the tradition of the No 1 (Guards) Independent Parachute Company who were the original Pathfinder Group of 16th Parachute Brigade now renamed 16th Air Assault Brigade.[14]


Officer of the Coldstream Guards with the Regimental Colours

The grouping of buttons on the tunic is a common way to distinguish between the regiments of Foot Guards. Coldstream buttons are arranged in pairs, and a Star of the Garter is marked on their brassware.[15]

The regiment is ranked second in the order of precedence, behind The Grenadier Guards. The regiment have the motto Nulli Secundus (Second to None) which is a play on the fact that the regiment was originally the "Second Regiment of Foot Guards".[16]

The regiment's nickname is Lilywhites. An ordinary soldier of the regiment is called a Guardsman, a designation granted by King George V after the First World War. The regiment is always referred to as the Coldstream, never as the Coldstreams, likewise a member of the regiment is referred to as a Coldstreamer.[15]


Recruits to the Guards Division go through an intensive thirty-week training programme at the British Army's Infantry Training Centre (ITC). Their training is two weeks longer than the programme provided for recruits to the Regular line infantry regiments of the British Army; the extra training, carried out throughout the course, is devoted to drill and ceremonies.[17]

Regimental Colonels

Battle honours

The Coldstream Guards have earned 117 battle honours:[20]

Order of precedence

Preceded by
Grenadier Guards
Infantry Order of Precedence Succeeded by
Scots Guards


See also


  1. "Coldstream Guards - British Army Website". Retrieved 2013-04-10.
  2. "Coldstream guards: history". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 "History of the Coldstream Guards". Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  4. Harwood 2006, p. 38.
  5. "Coldstream Guards: Waterloo". Retrieved 2009-09-03.
  6. Roberts, p 58
  7. ""Cuckoo" the German Panther in Service with the 4th Battalion Coldstream Guards". BBC. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  8. "Live Aid Introduction: Prince & Princess Royal Salute". Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  9. "Sergeant Chris Hickey of 1st Battalion the Coldstream Guards killed in Iraq". Ministry of Defence. 20 October 2005. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  10. "Coldstream Guards find torture chamber". Ministry of Defence. 11 March 2008. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  11. "Lieutenant Douglas Dalzell killed in Afghanistan". Ministry of Defence. 18 February 2010. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  12. "Guards Infantry Training Battalion". Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  13. 1 2 3 4 "Coldstream Guards". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  14. "No 1 (Guards) Independent Parachute Company". ParaData. Retrieved 2013-04-10.
  15. 1 2 "Ceremonial duties". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  16. "British History Online". Retrieved 2013-04-10.
  17. "Combat Infantryman's Course - Foot Guards". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 27 April 2014.
  18. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Ross of Bladensburg, Lt. Col. Sir John Foster George. A History of the Coldstream Guards, from 1815–1895. London: A.D. Innes & Co., 1896. p. 478
  19. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Ross of Bladensburg, Lt. Col. Sir John Foster George. A History of the Coldstream Guards, from 1815–1895. London: A.D. Innes & Co., 1896. p. 479
  20. "Queen presents new Colours to Coldstream Guards". Ministry of Defence. 3 May 2012. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  21. "Gulf battle honours". The Independent. 20 October 2003.
  22. "Navy News, Ship of the Month May 1999". Affiliations: City of Sunderland; Coldstream Guards; 30 Squadron RAF; The Worshipful Company of Farriers; Pangbourne College; Brymon Airways; Old Ocean Association


Further read

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