RAF Music Services News

The Changing of the Guard

Musician marching outside Buckingham Palace.
In 2018, Flight Lieutenant I’Anson marches into position on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace.

Dating back to the reign of King Henry VII, and performed at Buckingham Palace since Queen Victoria took up residence in 1837, the world famous Changing of the Guard ceremony is performed to handover the responsibility for protecting both Buckingham Palace and St James’ Palace – the Queen’s Guard passes the duty of protecting the Palace to the New Guard.

Also known as Public Duties, Changing the Guard sees the New Guard marching from Wellington Barracks to Buckingham Palace to replace the Old Guard.  The ceremony is the former hand over of responsibility from one regiment to another.

Since 1974 the RAF has undertaken Public Duties annually, with musical support provided by RAF Bands.  But on the 1st February this year, a very special Guard Change will take place with a Full Forecourt Mount to mark the 80th anniversary of the RAF Regiment.

Personnel on parade, with fly past overhead.
In 2015, for the first time in history, the RAF provided both the Queen’s Guard and the New Guard.

All 10 RAF Regiment Standards (Regular and Reserve) will be paraded at Buckingham Palace in the presence of His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent; the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston; and Air Vice-Marshal Mike Smeath.  It will be only the second time the RAF have provided both the Queen’s Guard and the New Guard at the same time; the first occasion was in 2015, marking the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

The Band of the RAF Regiment parading through gates of Buckingham Palace with public in the crowd
The Band of the RAF Regiment marching through the gates of Buckingham Palace, January 2022.

Over 100 RAF Musicians from the Regular and Reserve bands will, once again, be on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace for what promises to be a very special occasion.

The new RAF Slow March, ‘Saeculum’, was performed on Buckingham Palace forecourt for the first time during the Changing of the Guard in January 2022.  You can read more about the peformance and view a recording here.  Or view the upcoming RAF Music performances here.

Public Duties - quick-fire facts:

  • The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace is the ceremony where the Queen's Guard hands over responsibility for protecting Buckingham Palace, St. James's Palace and the Tower of London to the New Guard.
  • Dates: Daily in June - July, and from August - May on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
  • Following a march by a detachment of the Old Guard from St. James's Palace and the New Guard from Wellington Barracks, the ceremony on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace starts at 11:00am and lasts for approximately 45 minutes.
  • Musical support is provided by two military bands, with pipers occasionally taking part in the ceremony.
  • Watching the Changing of the Guard is free of charge and no tickets are required.
  • Guards will not stop or march around people who are standing in the way or impeding their progress! The usual warning they shout out if someone is in the way is: "Make way for the Queen's Guard."
  • A Trumpeter from RAF Music Services sounds the Last Post at the Tower of London during the Ceremony of the Keys, thought to be the oldest ceremony in the world.

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