A six-year-old boy suffering with a terminal illness stood in for The Queen to take the royal salute from soldiers trooping the colour this week.
On Thursday (23 May), Alfie Bartlam was given the honour during the final rehearsal for Her Majesty’s birthday parade, dismissing members of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery and the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, among others.
“Alfie was diagnosed with terminal cancer in April, but in front of the world-famous Grenadier Guards in the position usually taken up by the monarch, he stood strong and commanded the nation’s troops,” an army spokesman said.
The event came about thanks to Alfie’s uncle Lorne Baring, formerly of the Scots Guards, who contacted the Household Division.
“Alfie is mad keen on soldiers and loves everything to do with the Army,” he said. “He likes to march, salute and pretend to be a soldier with his friends.
“He has all the toy soldiers and militaria you might expect a keen six-year-old to have at home in his bedroom – I think he would love to be a soldier one day.”
Alfie was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour when he was four, and has since undergone radiotherapy and surgery.
“He has had 70 general anaesthetics in two years, to give some context to the hardship he’s bravely been fighting,” Mr Baring said.
“He has never complained once despite a punishing routine of radiotherapy and operations and now chemotherapy.
“Just before Easter his parents were told that further treatment to cure the cancer is not possible and that he is terminally ill – Alfie has been given a few months to live.”
On hearing Alfie’s story, the Brigade Major, Lieutenant Colonel Guy Stone, arranged the privilege of sitting in The Queen’s place.
As the Massed Band of the Household Division sounded the Royal Salute, a Grenadier Guards officer approached the dais.
“The sword-carrying officer bellowed: ‘Good morning Alfie. Thank you for coming. Her Majesty’s Guards are ready to march off. May I have your permission to march off?’” the army spokesman said.
“Unfazed, the confident young man stood up and, with a huge smile, replied: ‘Yes please’.
“The soldiers adorned with bearskin caps followed orders and marched back to Wellington Barracks, while the pristine horses of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery and the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment were ridden back to their military stables.”
Alfie, who watched the parade with his mum Lucinda and other members of his family, said the day was “absolutely amazing”.
“He thought it was very funny that The Queen let him sit in her chair,” Mr Baring added. “He was even more surprised that everyone knew his name.
‘The possible consequences of not going are so much worse than any reason you could have’
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“We are incredibly thankful to all the soldiers on parade today for making someone so happy.
“The people behind the scenes who made it possible did something very special today and Alfie left Horse Guards Parade with a huge smile on his face.
“For our family it made a dream come true at a very difficult time.”
The Queen’s birthday parade takes place on 8 June.
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