Art UK has updated its cookies policy. By using this website you are agreeing to the use of cookies. To find out more read our updated Use of Cookies policy and our updated Privacy policy.

9 artworks
  • Rank and status

    This work depicts the classic image of the gentleman guards officer in the 18th Century.
    The quality and finery of his uniform, with its cut and gold braiding are evident. It shows how fashion and design influenced military uniforms.
    His rank as an officer is emphasised by his sword, the officer's gorget and chain around his neck and the spontoon he is holding. The spontoon, derived from the pike, was a badge of rank for officers who used them to give instructions. They also had a practical use, forcing down the soldiers'musket barrels to prevent them from shooting too high.
    The house and landscape in the background are equally important, confirming the young man's status as the son of landed gentry and heir to the seat.

    Lieutenant Thomas George Southwell, Coldstream Guards 1739
    Charles Jervas (c.1675–1739)
    Oil on canvas
    H 227 x W 135 cm
    National Army Museum
    Lieutenant Thomas George Southwell, Coldstream Guards
    Photo credit: National Army Museum

  • The Battle of Waterloo

    This epic battle in 1815 ended Napoleon's attempts to conquer Europe. It concluded the wars that had been raging across the continent since the French Revolution 26 years earlier. Foot Guards had fought Napoleon's troops in Flanders, Eqypt, Portugal and Spain but never met him on the battlefield till that day.
    William Allan's painting depicts the climax to the day-long battle and the sheer scale of the fighting is clear. The final French assault by the elite Imperial Guard is shown in the centre. The British 1st Guards Brigade was waiting and when Wellington called to their commander "Now Maitland, Now's your time" they stood up and opened fire in volley after volley. The Imperial Guard retreated and Napoleon knew the battle was lost.

    The Battle of Waterloo 1843
    William Allan (1782–1850)
    Oil on panel
    H 118 x W 310 cm
    English Heritage, The Wellington Collection, Apsley House

  • The Guards Bands

    The Bands of the Guards Regiments have played around the world, even on the battlefields of WW1.
    This painting depicts what must have been one of the strangest venues for the Band of Coldstream Guards.
    When a young Isambard Kingdom Brunel staged a publicity event in his father's tunnel under the Thames he wanted a spectacle. The project was late and over budget, and had suffered a number of accidents. He invited VIPs to a banquet and naturally, a Guards band was required for musical support.
    In the echoing confines of the tunnel they played the National Anthem, 'Rule Britannia' and 'See the Conquering Hero Comes'. The latter for the benefit of the Duke of Wellington, Guest of Honour, and a financial backer of the project.

    Banquet in the Thames Tunnel c.1827
    George Jones (1786–1869) (attributed to)
    Oil on board
    H 37.5 x W 32.5 cm
    Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust
    Banquet in the Thames Tunnel
    Photo credit: Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust

  • Crimean War

    The Guardsman has a roughly bandaged head wound and gaunt face.
    Although painted 20 years after the Crimean War (1853-56) it captures one of the popular themes that emerged during the war- poor living conditions and care for the wounded.
    The British Army was ill-equipped for the war with Russia and the supply train from Britain broke down quickly. Medical care in the army was in its infancy and the conditions in the hospitals were appalling. Disease and infection were soon killing more men than the fighting.
    A scandal broke in Britain and nurses such as Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole went to the area to organise the hospitals and provide care for the sick and wounded.
    After the war reforms improved conditions for the soldiers.

    Study of a Wounded Guardsman, Crimea, c.1854 c.1874
    Elizabeth Southerden Thompson Butler (1846–1933)
    Oil on board
    H 21.8 x W 12.7 cm
    National Army Museum
    Study of a Wounded Guardsman, Crimea, c.1854
    Photo credit: National Army Museum

  • First World War

    This work depicts the early stages of WW1, and challenges the popular view that fighting always took place in the trenches.
    The first months saw a war of movement with the Germans invading Belgium and France and the allies attempting to stop them from capturing Paris.
    Here the two sides were fighting over the town of Landrecies, as the 4th Guards Brigade successfully delayed the German advance and bought time for defence elsewhere. There was hand to hand fighting in the streets.
    Also note that the British, to the right, are wearing peaked caps, not the distinctive 'Tommy' helmets. In fact, none of the armies went to war with helmets. These were only introduced later in the war due to the high number of head wounds being inflicted.

    Landrécies, 25 August 1914 1915
    William Barns Wollen (1857–1936)
    Oil on canvas
    H 112.4 x W 162.9 cm
    National Army Museum
    Landrécies, 25 August 1914
    Photo credit: National Army Museum

  • First World War soldier

    If you compare this painting from WW1 with Sergeant J. P. Kenneally, VC, First Battalion, Irish Guards Sergeant by Henry Marvell Carr from WW2 you can see how the equipment used by the soldiers in both wars is similar.
    The subject is in full kit with helmet, gas mask pack, webbing equipment and Lee Enfield SMLE rifle. He is gripping the rifle with determination as if about to go into battle. The background is barren and uneven, suggesting the heavily shelled and featureless landscape of the Western Front, although the subject sat for the painting back in Britain.
    The soldier was later identified as Sergeant Stanley Burton who fought in France and was awarded the Military Medal before returning home in May 1918.

    A Grenadier Guardsman 1917
    William Orpen (1878–1931)
    Oil on canvas
    H 91.4 x W 76.2 cm
    IWM (Imperial War Museums)
    A Grenadier Guardsman
    Photo credit: IWM (Imperial War Museums)

  • Second World War soldier

    John Patrick Kenneally was a Corporal in the Irish Guards when he was awarded the Victoria Cross for actions in Tunisia. This is the highest British award for bravery under fire a soldier can receive. He is pictured here in tropical uniform that he would have worn while fighting in North Africa.
    Although he is carrying a Lee Enfield no4 rifle he was actually using a Bren light machine gun when he charged German positions on 28th and 30th April 1943. This was a heavy weapon to fire from the hip but he did so while running towards the enemy. He was wounded on the 30th but continued to hop from position to position with the help of a colleague. He refused to give up the Bren gun.

    Sergeant J. P. Kenneally, VC, First Battalion, Irish Guards 1943
    Henry Marvell Carr (1894–1970)
    Oil on canvas
    H 89.5 x W 76.2 cm
    IWM (Imperial War Museums)
    Sergeant J. P. Kenneally, VC, First Battalion, Irish Guards
    Photo credit: IWM (Imperial War Museums)

  • Rex Whistler

    The artist Rex Whistler joined the Welsh Guards in WW2. He commanded a troop of tanks in the Guards Armoured Division which formed in 1941.
    His artistic talents did not go to waste and he submitted several designs for the new units badge, painting them on tanks. His redesign of the badge for the Guards Division from WW1 was adopted.
    The Welsh Guards Cromwell tanks were one of the better British designed tanks. They took part in the battle for Caen, the first major British tank battle after D Day. On the 18th July Whistler left the safety of his tank to speak to a colleague and was killed by an exploding mortar shell.

    Rex Whistler’s Self-Portrait in Welsh Guards Uniform, May 1940 1940
    Rex Whistler (1905–1944)
    Oil on canvas
    H 68.6 x W 55.9 cm
    National Army Museum
    Rex Whistler’s Self-Portrait in Welsh Guards Uniform, May 1940
    Photo credit: National Army Museum

  • Falklands War

    This painting captures the rugged and bleak terrain that the Falklands War was fought across. The Welsh Guards are seen picking their way through boulders. You can see they are lightly armed with rifles, helmets, and webbing equipment.
    Two rocky hills are prominent on the skyline. The Argentinians defended the high ground and the British had to fight to capture them. The battles of Mount Kent, Tumbledown, and Longden involved assaults uphill against a well dug-in enemy.
    The Welsh Guards occupied Sapper Hill on 14th June 1982, having picked their way through a dense minefield. It had been abandoned by the enemy and as they looked down on the capital, Port Stanley, news came the Argentinians had surrendered and the war was over.

    Advance to Stanley, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards after 1982
    Charles David Cobb (1921–2014)
    Oil on canvas
    H 50 x W 100 cm
    The Welsh Guards Museum
    Advance to Stanley, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards
    © the artist's estate. Photo credit: The Welsh Guards Museum