I'll spend Christmas Day guarding the Queen's home

By Helena Kealey
Newsbeat reporter

  • Published
Lance Corporal Udip Gurung and Trooper Daniel McNallyImage source, The Crown
Image caption,
Lance Corporal Udip Gurung and Trooper Daniel McNally are both working on Christmas Day

For many of us, Christmas Day involves slouching in front of the TV in a onesie, having chocolate for breakfast and cracking open the bubbly.

But for guardsman Lance Corporal Udip Gurung it's all about protecting the Queen's home.

He's a member of the Coldstream Guards and will spend Christmas Day wearing the world-famous scarlet tunic and bearskin cap guarding Buckingham Palace.

This year will be the third time Udip has worked over Christmas.

"Obviously I'll be missing my family, but at the same time it's a great honour to serve the country and guard the Queen," he says.

The Coldstream Guards working over Christmas this year will be on duty from 24 to 27 December.

Image source, The Crown
Image caption,
The Coldstream Guards have a ceremonial role as protectors of the royal palaces

"We wake up around 6am," the 28-year-old tells Radio 1 Newsbeat. "We go for a run around Hyde Park.

"After breakfast we prepare ourselves and our kit, ready to do our duty at Buckingham Palace, which involves manning the sentry post from 10am until 8pm."

Working over Christmas does have its perks though.

The soldiers keep their morale up by having a turkey dinner and exchange small gifts - but their main priority is guarding the one of the UK's most famous landmarks.

Trooper Daniel McNally, a soldier from the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment (HCMR), is also working on Christmas Day.

Image source, The Crown
Image caption,
Daniel will be spending Christmas Day on a horse working as part of The Queen's Life Guard

The 23-year-old's job is to protect the Horse Guards - which is classed as the official entrance to St James's and Buckingham Palace.

"You're sat on the horse, and you're looking to your left and right, checking your surrounding areas and usual guard duty things," he says.

The soldiers of the HCMR who get to spend the day guarding on horseback are usually chosen during a morning uniform inspection.

Normally, the soldiers with the tidiest uniforms get to ride the horses.

On Christmas Day, however, things are a little different.

Image source, The Crown
Image caption,
The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment is one of the oldest regiments in the British Army

"Rather than conducting a normal inspection, we'll have a fancy dress competition," Daniel tells us.

"Everyone will get on horseback for the mounted fancy dress inspection, and depending on how well the inspection goes, depends on your job down at The Queen's Life Guard.

"The lads who are deemed to have the best fancy dress will have an easier 24 hours."

Although he's not decided, Daniel mentioned his costume might be inspired by Peaky Blinders this year.

Christmas may be a big day in most people's calendars, but it pales in comparison to an event the soldier got to attend earlier this year.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex got married in May

"I was at Prince Harry and Meghan's wedding," he says. "I was on the staircase as they left the church.

"It was boiling. We were dripping through when we took off the uniforms at the end of the day."

Despite the treats and fun that accompanies work at Christmas, Daniel says duty always comes first.

"Down at The Queen's Life Guard, it's quite strict. We're all on guard duty, so there won't be any crazy parties going on."

For 19-year-old musician Aaron Chilton and the Coldstream Guards Band, Christmas means they get the day off.

Image source, The Crown
Image caption,
Aaron Chilton plays music during the famous Changing the Guard ceremony

"I'm a percussionist, a drummer in simple terms… which is essentially what keeps all the guardsmen in step and in time whilst marching," he says.

Even though Aaron isn't working on Christmas day, he spends most of December playing festive music during the Changing the Guard ceremonies.

The ceremony marks the moment when soldiers currently on duty change places with soldiers taking over the job.

"We play music whilst marching, and then we come into the palace. We form up in concert band formation and we play a few pieces of music off music stands.

"Once the ceremony has taken place and the guards have changed over, we form back up as a marching band and play back over to the barracks."

Image source, The Crown

Lots of thought goes into what the band plays near Christmas.

"We tend to try and put out music we think the crowd will enjoy, and also the troops as well.

"We'll bring out the Christmas classics - like Troika and Sleigh Ride - that people really know and will make them realise it is Christmas."

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