World News

First woman leads UK Changing of the Guard ceremony

First woman leads UK Changing of the Guard ceremony

A previous version stated Megan Couto was the first woman to lead the Queen's Guard; however, a press release by the British Ministry of Defence clarified that she's the first female infantry officer to captain the Guard.

A Canadian soldier became the first female infantry officer to take command of troops guarding Queen Elizabeth's Buckingham Palace residence in London on Monday.

"We've rehearsed for weeks and weeks", said Couto, whose unit was visiting Britain to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Canada, one of the 15 nations in addition to the United Kingdom which has the 91-year-old queen as head of state.

The role of Mounting The Queen's Guard usually falls to the male-dominated British Army's Household Division. "The Canadian Armed Forces takes pride in being a leader in the field of equality and women's rights.‎ Bravo Zulu Captain Couto!"

While some units of the Royal Armoured Corps have been open to women since last November, female soldiers will be recruited to combat roles in the infantry by the end of 2018. The troops will keep watch as sentries at Buckingham Palace, St. James's Palace, the Tower of London and Windsor Castle - at Her Majesty's request.

Couto marked her first trip to London with the historic event.

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"I'm just focusing on doing my job as best I can and staying humble", Couto told the AP.

The changing of the guard, conducted on four days a week, draws thousands of tourists to Buckingham Palace and Monday was no exception, with large crowds outside the gates in the summer sunshine.

Though women have served in frontline duties, they were not allowed in "ground close combat", roles until July 2016 — and so no British woman has yet served in the role.

Couto, 24, joined the military in 2010, earning a degree at the Royal Military College, before being posted to 2PPCLI in Shilo.

Canadian soldiers will be serving as the Queen's Guard on specific dates until July 3.


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