Queen’s birthday marked with socially distanced military tribute

The Queen's official birthday has been marked with a brief but poignant ceremonial tribute from the military – executed with precision despite social distancing.

Soldiers from the Welsh Guards, who a few weeks ago were manning Covid-19 test centres, staged the unique event in the grounds of Windsor Castle, as the head of state made her first official public appearance since the lockdown was imposed.

The traditional Trooping the Colour ceremony, which normally features hundreds of servicemen and women and thousands of spectators, was ruled out because of the threat of coronavirus.

But the Household Division – made up of the British's Army's most prestigious regiments – has a close affinity with the Queen and was keen to mark the milestone with a ceremony dubbed mini-Trooping.

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WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Guardsmen keep social distance as they stand in formation for a ceremony to mark Britain's Queen Elizabeth's official birthday at Windsor Castle on June 13, 2020 in Windsor, England. The Queen celebrates her 94th birthday this year, in line with Government advice, it was agreed that The Queen's Birthday Parade, also known as Trooping the Colour, would not go ahead in its traditional form. (Photo by Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Members of the Household Division arrive in preparation for a ceremony to mark Britain's Queen Elizabeth's official birthday at Windsor Castle on June 13, 2020 in Windsor, England. The Queen celebrates her 94th birthday this year, in line with Government advice, it was agreed that The Queen's Birthday Parade, also known as Trooping the Colour, would not go ahead in its traditional form. (Photo by Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: A member of the Household Division arrives in preparation for a ceremony to mark Britain's Queen Elizabeth's official birthday at Windsor Castle on June 13, 2020 in Windsor, England. The Queen celebrates her 94th birthday this year, in line with Government advice, it was agreed that The Queen's Birthday Parade, also known as Trooping the Colour, would not go ahead in its traditional form. (Photo by Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Members of the Welsh Guards perform in a ceremony to mark Britain's Queen Elizabeth's official birthday at Windsor Castle on June 13, 2020 in Windsor, England. The Queen celebrates her 94th birthday this year, in line with Government advice, it was agreed that The Queen's Birthday Parade, also known as Trooping the Colour, would not go ahead in its traditional form. (Photo by Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Members of the Welsh Guards perform in a ceremony to mark Britain's Queen Elizabeth's official birthday at Windsor Castle on June 13, 2020 in Windsor, England. The Queen celebrates her 94th birthday this year, in line with Government advice, it was agreed that The Queen's Birthday Parade, also known as Trooping the Colour, would not go ahead in its traditional form. (Photo by Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Queen Elizabeth II attends a ceremony to mark her official birthday at Windsor Castle on June 13, 2020 in Windsor, England. The Queen celebrates her 94th birthday this year, in line with Government advice, it was agreed that The Queen's Birthday Parade, also known as Trooping the Colour, would not go ahead in its traditional form. (Photo by Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Queen Elizabeth II attends a ceremony to mark her official birthday at Windsor Castle on June 13, 2020 in Windsor, England. The Queen celebrates her 94th birthday this year, in line with Government advice, it was agreed that The Queen's Birthday Parade, also known as Trooping the Colour, would not go ahead in its traditional form. (Photo by Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Queen Elizabeth II attends a ceremony to mark her official birthday at Windsor Castle on June 13, 2020 in Windsor, England. The Queen celebrates her 94th birthday this year, in line with Government advice, it was agreed that The Queen's Birthday Parade, also known as Trooping the Colour, would not go ahead in its traditional form. (Photo by Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Queen Elizabeth II attends a ceremony to mark her official birthday at Windsor Castle on June 13, 2020 in Windsor, England. The Queen celebrates her 94th birthday this year, in line with Government advice, it was agreed that The Queen's Birthday Parade, also known as Trooping the Colour, would not go ahead in its traditional form. (Photo by Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Queen Elizabeth II attends a ceremony to mark her official birthday at Windsor Castle on June 13, 2020 in Windsor, England. The Queen celebrates her 94th birthday this year, in line with Government advice, it was agreed that The Queen's Birthday Parade, also known as Trooping the Colour, would not go ahead in its traditional form. (Photo by Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Queen Elizabeth II attends a ceremony to mark her official birthday at Windsor Castle on June 13, 2020 in Windsor, England. The Queen celebrates her 94th birthday this year, in line with Government advice, it was agreed that The Queen's Birthday Parade, also known as Trooping the Colour, would not go ahead in its traditional form. (Photo by Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Queen Elizabeth II attends a ceremony to mark her official birthday at Windsor Castle on June 13, 2020 in Windsor, England. The Queen celebrates her 94th birthday this year, in line with Government advice, it was agreed that The Queen's Birthday Parade, also known as Trooping the Colour, would not go ahead in its traditional form. (Photo by Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Queen Elizabeth II attends a ceremony to mark her official birthday at Windsor Castle on June 13, 2020 in Windsor, England. The Queen celebrates her 94th birthday this year, in line with Government advice, it was agreed that The Queen's Birthday Parade, also known as Trooping the Colour, would not go ahead in its traditional form. (Photo by Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Queen Elizabeth II attends a ceremony to mark her official birthday at Windsor Castle on June 13, 2020 in Windsor, England. The Queen celebrates her 94th birthday this year, in line with Government advice, it was agreed that The Queen's Birthday Parade, also known as Trooping the Colour, would not go ahead in its traditional form. (Photo by Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
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Lance Corporal Chusa Siwale, 29, originally from Zambia, had a central role in the ceremony which was created by Garrison Sergeant Major Warrant Officer Class 1 Andrew Stokes.

The guardsman, whose regiment is part of the Household Division, said it was a "huge privilege" to be given the key role performing the Drummer's Call, during a "very difficult" time for the country.

He said: "Only four weeks ago I was involved with testing key workers for Covid-19 as part of the Welsh Guards' contribution to the battle against the virus; now I am on parade performing in front of Her Majesty.

"This is a very proud day for me."

As the Queen arrived in Windsor Castle's quadrangle the ceremony began when she took her place on a dais and the royal salute was given by the troops and the national anthem was played.

An event like this marking the sovereign's birthday has not been staged at Windsor since 1895, when a ceremony was held in honour of Queen Victoria.

Normally guardsmen stand shoulder-to-shoulder during drills or when formed up on the parade ground, allowing them to maintain "dressing" – staying in line with one another.

But in keeping with Covid-19 guidelines, they stood 2.2 metres apart, measured by three turns of the garrison sergeant major's pace stick.

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