Canadians making history at Buckingham Palace
Andrea Janus, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, July 14, 2014 8:30AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, July 14, 2014 1:40PM EDT
One of Canada’s most storied regiments is standing guard at Buckingham Palace for the first time in more than 70 years.
Approximately 70 members of the Ceremonial Guard of the Royal 22e Regiment, affectionately known as the Van Doos, took part in the Changing of the Guard ceremony outside Buckingham Palace Monday morning. The regiment will also mount the guard on July 16 and 18 at St. James’s Palace and the Tower of London.
The last time the Van Doos stood guard outside Buckingham Palace was for one week in the spring of 1940 at the request of King George VI, Colonel-in-Chief of the regiment.
"It was a first for the King's Guard Sentinels to receive commands, not only from a non-British unit, but also in French," says a statement from the Department of National Defence.
The honour is part of the regiment’s 100th anniversary celebrations.
"It’s an honour not only for the Van Doos, it’s an honour for the Canadian Army and for the Canadian Forces because there were about 12,000 spectators today, there will be about the same this afternoon and in the days to come," Maj.-Gen. (retired) Alain Forand, regimental colonel for the Royal 22e Regiment, told CTV News Channel from London.
"It's the Canadian Army that is put on display through the Van Doos doing that particular function."
Queen Elizabeth II, who now serves as the regiment’s Colonel-in-Chief, met with soldiers for about an hour on Sunday and even conversed with them in French, Forand said.
"It was really fantastic. It was something that all of the soldiers will never forget," he said, adding that 75 per cent of the soldiers who have travelled to Europe served in Afghanistan.
Canada’s High Commission in the United Kingdom tweeted photos from Buckingham Palace on Monday.
The band of the Grenadier Guards plays Stevie Wonder's Sir Duke as the Van Doos prepare for Changing of the Guards pic.twitter.com/zVbIe1cGP3— CanadianUK (@CanadianUK) July 14, 2014
The Royal 22e Regiment is the Canadian Army’s largest, with three regular force battalions, two primary reserve battalions, and a band.
The regiment served in both World Wars, in Korea and in all United Nations missions that Canada has been a part of.
"We’re very proud of our French Canadian heritage. If we speak French in the Canadian Forces in great part it's due to the Royal 22e Regiment," Forand said. "So the soldiers know what they represent, they know that those that preceded them established a statute of excellence that they are maintaining."
While overseas, the regiment’s delegation will also visit the battlefields of Ypres and Passchendale in Belgium from July 20 to 22, as well as Vimy Ridge in France from July 23 to 26.
"I would like to extend my congratulations to all members of the Royal 22e Régiment past and present on this great occasion," Defence Minister Rob Nicholson said in a statement.
"This commemorative event honours the bravery, dedication, and professionalism of 100 years of the Royal 22e Régiment."