Joining celebrations in Bruges for the 600 years of the Guild of St Sebastian
by Captain E M B van der Lande, The Life Guards
n early September, Capt Ed van der Lande, LCoH Healey-Potter, and two Trumpeters travelled to Bruges to gild a Flanders weekend that celebrated 600 years of the Guild of St Sebastian, and present them with a Trumpet banner. They were able to blister onto a large detachment from Nijmegen Company Grenadier Guards and their Regimental Band and the Company of Pikemen and Musketeers. The Life Guards and the Grenadier Guards had their origins in the historical city of Bruges. It was in this city that King Charles II settled and raised his Royal bodyguard. At the crack of dawn on a mild September morning, the marching party left Wellington Barracks and made their way for Belgium, the Advance Party having left the day before, and arrived at their Barracks nears Bruges in the late morning. After a quick practice of the parade in a nearby barracks, the troops formed up in the iconic Burgh Square ready to celebrate the event in front of a select group of VIPs. Prior to the parade, however, The Life Guards detachment, formed of Capt Ed van der Lande and LCoH Nathan Healey-Potter, provided the guard for the unveiling of a mural of King Charles II to remember the established bonds between the regiments and the city. The Unveiling of a Bust of King Charles II on the house where he had lived in Bruges was carried out by HRH Princess Astrid, The Crown Princess of the Belgians. This
Princess Astrid unveils the monument to Charles II
was immediately followed by a Parade in Burg Square with Belgian Grenadiers, Nijmegen Company, The Company of Pikemen and Musketeers and the Regimental Band. After the Parade, the City of Bruges entertained everyone at various Receptions. Despite the late finish on the Friday evening the tempo of the weekendâ€™s events did not abate. On Saturday the Grenadier contingent, along with the Pikemen and Musketeers, were inspected by the Mayor of Bruges, accompanied by the Regimental Lieutenant Colonel, and then marched through the City to the Guild of St Sebastian ending at the Royal Guild of Saint Sebastian, where an impressive display of 17th Century drill was put on by the Pikemen and Musketeers. This was where Charles II was housed in exile and kept 40 gentlemen troopers with him who later grew in number and became The Life Guards. As we marched through the old cobbled streets surrounded by the iconic buildings of Bruges, the narrowness of the streets intensified the crunch of boot and thud of drum which created a powerful atmosphere that the locals found thrilling. The gentlemen of the Royal Guild lavished us with Belgium beer and food and a merry time was had by all. The hospitality of the Royal Guild and the uniqueness of the march was a definite highlight of the trip. The final day saw the Grenadiers march through Pont a Marcq; this town had been liberated by the Grenadiers in the Second World War. Much to the ire of the Foot Guards, The Life Guards detachment did frequently remind them that impressive as this liberation was by
The new monument in close up
the Grenadiers, the Household Cavalrymen of 2HCR were first in the liberation of Brussels; a city of much greater size. A service in the church of Pont a Marcq, though, provided a poignant reminder of the sacrifice made by our forebears to ensure European freedom, a sacrifice certainly not forgotten by the local residents of the town. After a commemorative lunch in the local town hall held by the villagers, we travelled to Ypres so that the Grenadiers could lay a wreath at the Menin Gate. Most of the group had not visited this sombre commemoration to the fallen from the Great War but all were left with a lasting impression of the devastation war can bring. It was a fitting way to end a thoroughly enjoyable, tiring and reflective weekend in Belgium.
The Grenadiers march through the streets of Bruges