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In fighting form: A Coldstream Guard’s uniform

SINGAPORE — Their scarlet jackets and black fur hats look ceremonial to modern eyes, but the uniform of the British Coldstream Guards are in fact designed for combat — such as the high collars meant to protect their necks from being slashed.

SINGAPORE — Their scarlet jackets and black fur hats look ceremonial to modern eyes, but the uniform of the British Coldstream Guards are in fact designed for combat — such as the high collars meant to protect their necks from being slashed.

As the oldest regiment in the British army (formed in 1650), the Coldstream Guards, recognisable to most as those who guard British royal residences like Buckingham Palace, fought in these scarlet uniforms up to the early 1900s.

As such, many of the uniform’s details have functional uses in battle, shared some members of the regiment, who were in Singapore on a trip to celebrate the Queen of England’s birthday, Singapore’s Golden Jubilee, and 50 years of diplomatic relations between the United Kingdom and Singapore

The Coldstream Guards are one of five regiments that normally guard the Queen. To distinguish the Coldstreamers from other foot guards, a keen eye is necessary to notice details like the buttons, arranged in pairs, or the red plume, placed on the right of each bearskin.

The curb chain on the hat protects a guard’s chin from being slashed by a sword, while the high collar lifts his head up and protects his neck from being slashed.

And to ensure guards maintain a dignified air, there are buttons on the cuffs and the back of the jacket, extending past the waist, so that the wearer does not use his sleeves to wipe his brows, or sit or lean against a wall. One element that has changed are the hats, which are now made of synthetic fur, rather than bearskin.

Nine Coldstream Guards are in Singapore for the occasion. The three Coldstreamers interviewed by TODAY were in Singapore for the first time, visiting old-folks’ homes, charities and international schools. They also visited Malaysia on a similar programme last week. “It’s very cosmopolitan but also welcoming and secure,” said Company Sergeant Major Brad Suntherland, 37.

Beyond their ceremonial duties, Coldstreamers still perform combat roles. “We are currently still operational, on ten days’ notice to move to places like Northern Iraq, West Africa, all the places that may need an influx of troops quickly,” said Major Suntherland.

Mr Simon Bowskill, 46, Regional Overseas Security Manager at the British High Commission, said the Coldstream Guards have, since their formation, taken part in almost every major battle for the UK.

 

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