16 December 2013

Scots Guards and the Execution of Josef Jakobs

Tourists in London flock to Buckingham Palace and the Wellington Barracks to see Changing the Guard. It is a spectacular event in which the company on duty assembles on the parade ground of Wellington Barracks and then makes its way to Buckingham Palace.
Scots Guards Parade
Wellington Barracks - Scots Guards - Changing the Guard - © 2012 G.K. Jakobs
The soldiers that guard the Queen's residences are collectively known as the Queen's Guard and are normally drawn from the five Foot Guards regiments stationed at Wellington Barracks and Woolich. The Queen's Guard soldiers are responsible for guarding Buckingham Palace, St. James Palace and the Tower of London, still technically a Royal Residence.

Scots Guards on Parade
Wellington Barracks - Scots Guards - Changing the Guard - © 2012 G.K. Jakobs
The five Foot Guards regiments are the Grenadier Guards, Coldstream Guards, Scots Guards, Irish Guards and Welsh Guards. The Guards ceremonial uniform is one of the most iconic uniforms in the world. Its black trousers, red tunic and bearskin hat are easily recognizable and often imitated.
Bears dressed in Guards-like uniform
Guardsman Bears - © 2012 G.K. Jakobs

At first glance, the different Guards regiments may appear difficult to distinguish, but there are differences in the tunics and the plumes worn on the bearskin hats.

Grenadier Guards - tunic buttons grouped singly, white plume on left side, grenade collar badge
Coldstream Guards - tunic buttons grouped in pairs, red plume on right side, garter star collar badge
Scots Guards - tunic buttons grouped in threes, no plume, thistle collar badge
Irish Guards - tunic buttons grouped in fours, blue plume on right side, shamrock collar badge
Welsh Guards - tunic buttons grouped in fives, white/green plume on left side, leek collar badge

Scots Guards, Tower of London
Tower of London - © 2012 G.K. Jakobs
A detachment composed of one officer, six non-commissioned officers and fifteen soldiers are stationed within the Tower of London. They provide a guard for Queen's House, a Royal Residence, and for Waterloo Barracks which houses the Crown Jewels.

Every evening, at exactly 9:52 pm, the Guards accompany the Yeoman Warder (a.k.a. Beefeater) to the entrance of the Tower to lock the gate. This Ceremony of the Keys has been performed nightly for 700 years, the longest running military ceremony in the world.

The duties of the Guards are not just ceremonial. During World War 2, a detachment of  Guards performed a more solemn duty in defense of the British Empire.  On the morning of August 15, 1941, eight Scots Guards served as the firing squad that executed Josef Jakobs at the Tower of London. The lint circle that had been pinned to Jakobs' chest, and which was pierced by five bullets, was collected by one of the soldiers.

Its location remained a mystery until 1976 when, after many enquiries, Winston Ramsey, editor of After the Battle Magazine, learned that it was being held by the Scots Guards at the Guards Museum. Ramsey took a photograph of the lint circle (After the Battle Magazine - Volume 11) which was reprinted in Nigel West's book, MI5: British Security Service Operations, 1909-1945.

The Guards Museum (located at Wellington Barracks) is open to the public and contains an impressive display of all things related to the Guards, documenting the histories of the five regiments from inception to the present day.
Guards Museum at Wellington Barracks, London
From Army Museums Ogilve Trust
The lint circle is currently not on display in the Guards Museum (2012).
Guards, Tower Station, London
Tower Station Mural - © 2012 G.K. Jakobs

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