“You’ve got 600 guys unable to take a hot shower in central London – they’re hopping mad.” Who in Central London would have the misfortune of such poor accommodations? The soldiers of Her Majesty’s foot guards.
The problem of the icy cold showers, no central heating in the majority of the compound, and closing of two of the three kitchens can be traced to a breakdown of the “ancient” boilers at the Wellington barracks. These quarters are located just 300 meters from Buckingham Palace. The Married quarters is the only place in the complex with heating. During this cold spell, this has left guardsmen without hot water for days.
Those at the Victorian-era barracks told the Daily Telegraph that tempers were frayed even before this current problem began. It didn’t help matters that it could take up to five weeks to make the proper repairs to the barracks that date all the way back to 1833. Over the years, the Wellington barracks have been a home-away-from-home for Her Majesty’s soldiers from the Grenadier, Scots and Coldstream Guards while they are on ceremonial duties. The breakdown of the boilers at the Wellington barracks can widely be attributed to the “dilapidation” of Buckingham Palace and the surrounding property.
Another source told the Daily Telegraph: “Everyone knows Wellington Barracks is falling apart, but they’ve been dilly-dallying and patching it up for 50 years. You soon get sweaty and smelly doing ceremonial duty.” The bear-skin guardsmen go from challenging morning drills and work-outs to a ceremonial parade with only a frigid shower in between.
The bear-skin guardsmen go from challenging morning drills and work-outs to a ceremonial parade with only a frigid shower in between. A MOD spokesperson stated that the boiler breakdown was initially caused by a gas leak: “Alternative arrangements have been made for all personnel affected, including the provision of temporary heaters, and we are exploring the feasibility of installing a temporary shower facility.”
These mobile shower blocks would create another dilemma, as they can only easily fit in the drill square. This would allow tourists on the Birdcage Walk an unimpeded view of the guardsmen.
Earlier this week, approximately 100 troops from the Irish Guards arrived to relieve the Royal Guard. The Ministry of Defense is left with the decision to temporarily fix the boilers or to completely replace them. If replaced, it could take weeks. Carillion Amey, the contractor in charge for maintenance at the barracks, said the “issue relates to a 30-year-old system”, and that it hoped to make the boilers functional “within the next week”. While the central heating and hot water are down, Rank-and-file Guardsmen won’t have to pay their £30 monthly accommodation fee.