BECOMING A YEOMAN
Something important was missing from my life, when I became a civilian after some 34 years service in the Grenadier Guards.
In my youth (an undistinguished apprenticeship in Headquarter Company of the 2nd Battalion), I managed to find myself on every Royal Guard possible (but more frequently gaining a wealth of experience of the Bank of England Picquet!) I also spent many static hours street lining in The Mall.
As a Warrant Officer, I spent two years as Chief Clerk ‘A' Branch at HQ London District, where amongst other duties, I was a member of the small team planning and arranging the state celebrations for the Queen's Silver Jubilee. This superb appointment gave me a passion for great ceremonial occasions, which will remain with me for the rest of my life.
Options for Change (in the early 1990s) brought about the demise of the 2nd Battalion and also my premature retirement. Some time later, I was chatting to a highly respected former Warrant Officer and Yeoman in The Queen's Body Guard. He expressed surprise that I had not applied to join the Body Guard. I explained that I assumed that I was ineligible having accepted a commission. He very quickly put me wise - in the precise and concise manner that we have all come to expect from those who have carried the pace-stick!
It was therefore with some apprehension that I reported to St James's Palace in 1998, to be sworn-in as a Yeoman in The Queen's Body Guard of the Yeomen of the Guard.
In the 21st Century, the duties are largely ceremonial. Notwithstanding this, each modern Yeoman remains deeply conscious of his sworn duty that, should all else fail, he alone may become the absolute and final line of defence for his monarch.
Why do it? Certainly not for the money (though travel is free and overnight expenses are paid where appropriate). No doubt each Yeoman has his own personal reasons but I believe we all share in the same deep sense of pride and privilege in being selected to serve in The Queen's Body Guard.
The sense of history is overwhelming and the various duties range from the famous search of the Houses of Parliament (immediately prior to the State Opening - to prevent another Gunpowder Plot), to the glittering pomp and circumstance of State Banquets at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle in honour of visiting monarchs and presidents.
In 2002, Yeomen undertook the solemn duty of keeping watch over Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, during her Laying in State in Westminster Hall.
The Yeoman Body Guard are the only non-commissioned troops afforded this singular and very great honour at Royal and State Funerals.
The Commitment? Normally some six or seven duties per year, until reaching the age of 70, when a Yeoman becomes "exempt duty".
Eligibility? An honourable discharge after 22 years service, the award of the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal and having reached the rank of Sergeant. Candidates must be of good character, fit and under the age of 55 on appointment. Applications may be made whilst serving or after leaving the forces. Those who have served in the Royal Marines and Royal Air Force may also apply and both services are well represented within the Body Guard.
How to apply? Through Regimental Headquarters (via Commanding Officers in the case of those still serving).
Candidates from the Household Division are particularly welcome due to their familiarity with Royal and State ceremonial duties.
It is wise to apply early, as there is usually a long waiting list for vacancies.
Anyone who values superb comradeship and who would enjoy serving in Her Majesty's uniform again, will find no better or more pleasant means to "continue the movement", than by applying to join. The spirit, good humour and fellowship is like that to be found in the very best Sergeants' Messes.
Those who are selected for this unique honour are placed at the very "front row" of important royal and state occasions - once again playing an active role.
Major (QM) M. B. Holland joined the Grenadier Guards at the age of 15, as a Junior Guardsman in 1959.
Climbing the Orderly Room ladder he became Superintending Clerk of the Guards Depot and the Regiment. He was commissioned in 1984 and rose to become Quartermaster of the 2nd Battalion at Ballykelly. He was subsequently appointed Catering Officer of the Guards Depot and ended his regimental career as Quartermaster of 8th (Co Tyrone) Battalion of the Ulster Defence Regiment (later Royal Irish Regiment).
Major Holland retired from full time employment at the Royal Hospital Chelsea in 2005 but accepted a part-time appointment as a Warden at Windsor Castle until reaching compulsory retirement age in 2008.
He continues to serve in the Yeomen Body Guard and has recently been selected for the challenging appointment of Ceremonial Supervisor at the annual Royal Ascot Race Meeting.
 The Yeomen Body Guard was formed by King Henry VII in 1485 and is the oldest military unit in the world - pre-dating even the Vatican's world famous Swiss Guard.
The Yeomen Warders at HM Tower of London were formed later (1509), originally as a detachment from the Yeomen Body Guard.