August 7, 2000
The tune of Waltzing Matilda reverberated around St James's Park as Australia's Federation Guard (AFG) marched into Buckingham Palace to take over Queen's Guard duties in London from the 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards.
The 150 member Guard, a special tri-service unit formed to undertake ceremonial activities associated with the Centenary of Federation, is drawn from the RAN, the Australian Army RAAF.
The RAN was given the honour becoming the first sailors of any nation to guard the royal palaces and the Tower of London.
Members of the Royal Marines have provided Queen's Guard but not the Royal Navy.
The RAN contingent therefore had much to live up to.
The duties rotated between the three armed services and alternated every other day with the 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards.
The Band of the Royal Military College provided musical support throughout the AFG's public duties.
Despite three months of solid training no member of the Navy contingent had actually practised at any of the locations they were required to guard. So when the RAN element marched to the forecourt at Buckingham Palace every member was experiencing it for the first time.
The crowd lined the streets 10 deep and included many Australians.
The Guard also provided a catafalque party for a wreath laying ceremony by the Prime Minister at the Cenotaph in Whitehall and visited the Chelsea pensioners at the Royal Hospital.
The Major General Commanding the Household Division, MAJGEN Evelyn Webb-Carter, said: "The Centenary of Federation is an important milepost in Australian history. I am delighted to be able to welcome the Australian Federation Guard to carry out Queen's Guard during this time of celebration.
"The tri-service Guard is unique in undertaking the duty and I am confident that those taking part will uphold the high standards and traditions of Australian Forces".
The last time Australians provided a Queen's Guard was during the Australian
Bicentenary in 1988 by soldiers of the Royal Australian Regiment. The
tri-service nature of the AFG makes it unique in undertaking public duties.