Ceremonial Guard

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For ceremonial military units in general, see honor guard.

The Ceremonial Guard (CG) is an ad hoc military unit in the Canadian Forces that used to draw principally from two Primary Reserve (militia) regiments of Foot Guards: The Governor General's Foot Guards from Ottawa and the Canadian Grenadier Guards from Montreal. However, since 2007 the Ceremonial Guard has been manned by a more pan–Canadian Forces approach: Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force personnel. Every summer, the Ceremonial Guard performs the Changing the Guard ceremony on Parliament Hill and posts sentries at Rideau Hall, the residence of the Governor General of Canada, and the National War Memorial.

As any guard unit in the Canadian Forces, uniforms originate from the Queen's Guard.

The Changing the Guard Ceremony.

Unit composition[edit]

When the Guard comes together it comprises the Public Duties Company, the Headquarters Company and the Band of the Ceremonial Guard, which also includes a full pipes and drums. The total strength is about 420 people.

The uniforms worn represent both infantry guards regiments: the Governor General's Foot Guards (GGFG) and the Canadian Grenadier Guards (CGG). The colours carried on Parliament Hill are also from these regiments.

The Public Duties Company is further broken down into platoons and divisions. The Public Duties Company has eight divisions. A division is about 18–24 soldiers.

The Ceremonial Guard maintains no regimental colour nor has it any battle honours of its own as it is not a permanent unit in the Canadian Forces' order of battle. The only colours flown in the ceremonies are those of the two guards regiments.

The Ceremonial Guard also maintains its own regimental band and pipers that form a separate company, as well as the Headquarters Company for administration and support personnel. Musicians are drawn from military units and colleges or universities across Canada, and applicants must first pass an audition to be considered. All new musicians must pass the Canadian Armed Forces Basic Military Qualification Course (BMQ) before they can be employed with the Ceremonial Guard; all members are trained soldiers.

The unit exists with a full composition only from early June to the end of August. During the rest of the year a small administrative corps remains to prepare for next year's public duties season, and beginning in early May the unit stands up partially to allow for the conduct of Basic Military Qualification and other military courses as required.

The unit also plans and executes the Canadian Forces beating the retreat "Fortissimo". This takes place each year in August.

All members of the Ceremonial Guard are fully trained members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).

Public duties[edit]

The primary and most visible function of the Ceremonial Guard is, as mentioned, the Changing of the Guard on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, the national capital of Canada. The Changing of the Guard Ceremony is a parade representing the changing of the guards/sentries posted at Rideau Hall, the official residence of the Canadian monarch when in Ottawa, and her representative, the Governor General, in her absence. A full company of two platoons is employed in daily public duties, with both divisions of one platoon parading as the 'new guard' – those to take over duties at Rideau Hall – and the other platoon of the company split, one division parading as 'old guard', and the other performing sentry duties at Rideau Hall and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for the day.

Canadian Grenadiers marching during CG.

Changing of the Guard[edit]

The parade begins at the Cartier Square Drill Hall with the drum major, followed by the band, and the two divisions of the 'new guard'. Turning north onto Queen Elizabeth Drive, the parade continues underneath the Laurier Avenue bridge and then turns left onto the ramp leading onto Laurier Avenue (Ottawa). While the New Guard is en route to Parliament Hill the Old Guard forms up behind the East Block with the colour. They set off at approximately 9:46 a.m. with the Pipes and Drums of the Ceremonial Guard leading. They march to the east lawn and move into position, then they await the New Guard arriving. The New Guard makes a right turn onto Elgin Street up to the National War Memorial and onto Wellington Street before the parade arrives on Parliament Hill precisely at 10 a.m. At this time the band begins to play "The 10 Provinces March" by Howard Cable.

The parade marches onto the east lawn of Parliament, with the band centred at the northernmost edge of the lawn and facing south. The old guard is in position on the west side of the east lawn and faces the east block, while the new guard marches to the east side of the lawn and faces west towards the old guard. After the old and new guards are formed from three ranks into two and independently dressed off for proper alignment, the two sergeants of the guard – commanders of the two divisions of new guard – advance to be inspected by the company sergeant-major. Following inspection, the number two division sergeant marches to his position while the number one division sergeant stands still. The new guard is then given the order "Get on parade", at which point they advance to the tune of "The British Grenadiers" from the band, and form up dressed off the sergeants of the guard. The new guard's persons and weapons are inspected by the company commander, and they are stood at ease.

Following the inspection of the new guard, the old guard is inspected. After this inspection, the sergeants of the guard and division seconds-in-command are ordered to 'take post' – the sergeant of the guard marches from the right flank to directly behind the guard, while the second-in-command marches from the left flank to the right. The parade is then called to the present arms for the marching on of the regimental colours. With the colours marched on, the new guard advances at the slow march, ceremonially 'taking up the ground' from the old guard. The old guard and new guard salute each other at present arms. Following this, the old guard commander presents the key to the Guard Room at Rideau Hall to the new guard commander. The parade is then formed into three ranks and marched off at the slow march, transitioning into the quick march. The order of march differs only in that the old guard is now at the rear.

Sentry duty[edit]

The other highly visible public duty of the Ceremonial Guard is sentry duty at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial and Rideau Hall. The sentries are ceremonial in nature only and do not generally perform actual guard duty; however, all are trained military personnel and procedures and orders do exist for the Ceremonial Guard to adopt an armed night guard of Rideau Hall should sufficient security threat arise.

The sentries are posted daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT, every hour on the hour. At 9 a.m. the posting corporal – generally a corporal from the junior leadership but sometimes a corporal from the ranks – marches out accompanied by the four sentries, two escorts, and a bagpiper. The corporal, sentries, and escorts are all dressed in full scarlet uniforms and carry rifles with bayonets fixed. The party marches to the Sussex Drive gate of Rideau Hall where the first two sentries are posted and have their duties read to them. The party then marches back to Rideau Hall itself where the two remaining sentries are posted and have their duties read. It should also be noted that the sentries may change more often due to weather issues; e.g. on an extremely hot day.

Two sentries at the Canadian War Memorial in Ottawa.

Throughout the day Rideau Hall is visited by the officer commanding of the parade and the company sergeant-major. They will generally elect to observe a relief of the sentries, and sometimes the officer commanding will take a report from the sentries on duty. The Officer and the Guard sergeant for Rideau Hall may also elect to do rounds to check on both of the sentry posts. Grand Rounds may also be executed by the Commanding Officer of the Unit.

Extra functions[edit]

In addition to the Changing of the Guard, the Ceremonial Guard takes part in many other functions, such as the annual Governor General's review of the Guard. This inspection takes place prior to the first Guard mount on Parliament Hill normally in late June, the Canada Day celebration on 1 July, the "Fortissimo" Sunset Ceremony that takes place in early August on Parliament Hill, and the Guard's final parade at the end of August. It also participates in military funerals (for example, Jack Layton's procession at Parliament), important visits (Queen Elizabeth II in 2010, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011). The band of the Ceremonial Guard has many engagements outside of public duties. The Ceremonial Guard's main mission and focus is in Ottawa.

External links[edit]