The Queen’s Birthday Parade, known as ‘Trooping the Colour’ which took place on Horse Guards on Saturday 13 June, was the end of an era for one Welsh Guardsman who has spent 13 years overseeing some of the British military’s biggest ceremonies.
Garrison Sergeant Major William ‘Billy’ Mott – the Army’s senior Warrant Officer – retired after saluting The Queen at Buckingham Palace for the final time after Saturday’s parade.
The ceremony was particularly special for Billy as it was his parent unit, The 1st Battalion The Welsh Guards, who were this year given the honour of parading their Colour (or ceremonial flag) at the annual ceremony.
Billy joined the Welsh Guards 36 years ago and as Garrison Sergeant Major, coordinated parades for some of the Nation’s most important State ceremonies, including The Queen Mother’s funeral in 2002, the Royal Wedding in 2011, the Diamond Jubilee State Procession in 2012 and of course the annual Queen’s Birthday Parade.
From 2003 he was also a pivotal figure in organising the repatriation ceremonies for British Troops killed in action during Combat Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Speaking about his career at his final parade, he said:
“I love the Household Division, I love being a Guardsman. My self-discipline has always helped me and so I have embedded that into every parade I have been involved in, to try to achieve the best I can for the sovereign and the nation.”
“For me it’s about that sense of loyalty, camaraderie, respect, and my allegiance to this great country of ours and our sovereign, but also to my comrades and wanting to achieve the best I can.”
Billy, who also served in the Falklands conflict in 1982, is retiring to Kentucky in the United States of America.
“My wife Tammy has suggested I get a herd of cattle and start forming them up and having them do left-forms and guard-mounts. The wonderful thing about it is that after all of the wonderful years in the Welsh Guards I now have something exciting to look forward to.”
At the start of the annual ceremony, which was also attended by other members of The Royal Family including The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and The Princess Royal, the Household Cavalry escorted the Queen down The Mall from Buckingham Palace. On arrival at Horse Guards Parade The Queen received the Royal salute before inspecting 1,100 soldiers of the Household Division.
The Welsh Guards proudly trooped their Colour through the resplendent ranks of guardsmen before being joined by the other regiments of the Household Division in a march past for Her Majesty.
The Queen’s return journey up the Mall to Buckingham Palace in an open carriage, surrounded by her mounted escort and her Foot Guards presents one of the most magnificent spectacles London has to offer and culminated with another march past as The Queen took the salute in front of Buckingham Palace. The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery then fired a 41-Gun Salute in Green Park.
Afterwards, The Queen and the rest of The Royal Family together with Prince George appeared on the palace balcony for The Queen’s Birthday Flypast by the world famous Red Arrows.
Trooping the Colour is held in honour of The Queen’s official birthday. The Queen has two birthdays – her actual birthday on 21 April and her official one on a Saturday in June. An official birthday was adopted by previous monarchs to ensure that the birthday parade happened in good weather, something that has not always happened!
The ceremony of trooping the colour dates back to the 17th Century when the Colours of a Regiment were used as a rallying point in battle. Colours were trooped past the soldiers every day so they could easily recognise those belonging to their Regiment. Since 1748 Trooping the Colour has been used to mark the official birthday of the British sovereign.