Even though I am caught up with my summertime maintenance projects, I took some time out last Thursday to attend the ceremony. I had run out of some much needed material to finish one of my projects as well, and needed to go to the hardware store, so off I went to kill two birds with one stone.
The Changing of the Sentry Ceremony is a short ceremonial mini-parade dating back to the late 1700s and is made up of retired members of the Barbados Legion.
The ceremony pays homage to the rich military heritage of our island.
The reenactment of the ceremony mimics the military exercise which was a main event carried out by British troops stationed at the Garrison during the colonial era.
The Changing of the Sentry started on December 14th 2011, when it was launched to celebrate Tourism week in Barbados.
Our Changing of the Sentry in Barbados is similar to the Changing Of The Guard at Buckingham Palace, but just on a smaller scale.
I arrived early to get a good vantage point. It was quiet at first, but then others started to stroll in laden with big cameras, ipads and phones to capture the unique event. An air of excitement ensued when two bus loads of day camp kids alighted and mingled with the tourists and others like myself in the crowd.
I wasn't sure what to expect, and I wondered if what I had read about the ceremony was the real deal....let's just say I was not disappointed.
The two sentry boxes that stand in the patio of the Main Guard were placed outside the building and the street was blocked off.
This car barely cruised through before the blockade was enforced.
First the flags were hoisted, and the entry boxes were placed in position.
It was an easy setup with the wheeled pallet being used to move the sentry boxes.
Here they come, the first two sentries to take up the guard post ushered out by their command officer.
Marching into position.
The clipboard in his left hand had the rules that the sentries must adhere to.
In a loud booming voice he read the duties. Later I took this quick photo of the clipboard when it was replaced in the sentry box.
The commanding officer marched away.
Now it was the band's turn.....the parade was about to start. The camp kids were all excited and the poor camp counselors had a hard time getting them to stand back out of the way of the band.
Here comes the parade band being led by the drum corps.
They wear the colourful "Zouave" uniform which was originally sanctioned for the West India Regiments by Queen Victoria in 1858.
The queen had admired the uniform on the "Zouave Algerian tribe" which at the time was a part of the French Army.
The West India Regiment was the first British Regiment of black soldiers. When Britain declared war on the French in 1793, slaves were recruited due to a shortage of troops.
Two regiments (The 1st & 2nd West India Regiments) made up of 1,000 men each were formed and were called "The West India Regiments."
As an incentive to enlist, each slave was given their freedom and paid as soldiers in the British army. The regiments served both in the British Army and worldwide for 132 years.
After the regiments were disbanded in 1927, the uniform was retained by the Band of the Barbados Volunteer Force....now the Barbados Defence Force Band.
The only other Commonwealth military unit to wear this uniform is the Jamaica Military Band; which is directly descended from the last of the former West India Regiments.
More info on the Zouave uniform here.
With military precision they marched down to the other end of the street.
As the band marched to the end of the street, everyone jostled to get a better view.
The band then performed several lively routines, including a drum and stick routine which was quite impressive.
Throughout the ceremony we were being informed of the details by an official on a microphone in the patio of the building.
It was when I found out what happened to the lion's leg in the Coat of Arms on the Main Guard building.
If you look closely at the lion at the top of the crown you will note that one of the hind legs is missing....this was as a result of a well-hit cricket ball from a game being played on the Garrison Savannah....more than likely a six run score.
It was then time for the first two sentries to be relieved of their duties.
Another two took their place, and after having their orders "barked" at them, they were in position for photos.
The band retired.
Souvenirs and momentos of the event were available for sale.....they did a brisk trade.
Being the sister of a former military member, they were many who remembered me and came over to chat.
I enjoyed the ceremony, and I learned a lot more of my island's history, and for that I am thankful.