The UK’s foremost equestrian brigade — the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery — will move to the former Royal Artillery Barracks at Woolwich, the army has exclusively told H&H.
Colonel John Brown, deputy chief of staff for the London district, said: “The lease on the troop’s present barracks in St John’s Wood runs out in March 2012, when it is to be developed.
“At Woolwich the troop will be accommodated in the huge barracks that were vacated by the Royal Artillery in July last year,” Col Brown explained.
He said the troop would be housed in Napier Lines, an area close to the original barracks of 1776, which boasts the largest parade square of any UK garrison. It will be one of two units housed at Woolwich, the second has yet to be chosen.
“There is some work to do. A building used for vehicles will become a modern stabling compound and provide more up-to-date facilities than the troop presently has,” added Col Brown. “We intend to start work early next year and be finished in November 2011, so the troop can move in time for its royal diamond jubilee year — 2012.”
Many of the King’s Troop’s duties are ceremonial and one of the benefits of the St John’s Wood site was its proximity to central London — a 40-minute hack from Buckingham Palace.
The new site will not afford them this luxury, but Col Brown said a staging area would be provided at another central London barracks where they will arrive by horsebox and base the horses for up to 24 hours.
Former commanding officer of the unit Will Connell, who is now British Equestrian Federation performance director, said the move will cause the troop significant logistical problems.
“I retired in 2001 but would not have enjoyed serving in Woolwich,” he said. “Being so far out of the centre will cause huge problems for royal salutes, but the troop will carry on — that’s the difference between the army and the rest of the world.”
Another potential concern is that Woolwich barracks has been chosen as the venue for the shooting during the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Major Erica Bridge, the troop’s first female commander, said the MOD is working with the 2012 Organising Committee to ensure the horses are not affected. She said they are looking at the move as a catalyst for change in the troop.
“This is an opportunity to look at how we do things and see if there are better ways,” she said.