Thirteen of the Queen’s Royal Guards have been jailed after attending a party near Windsor Castle, in breach of coronavirus rules.
The soldiers were sentenced to between 14 and 28 days following a Military Summary hearing at their barracks near Windsor at the end of last week, reports the Mirror. Sources say the men are being jailed for drinking with civilians while not socially distancing, potentially putting the rest of their battalion at risk of infection.
The soldiers reportedly ended up mixing with people outside of their battalion after drinks following a game of football in a Windsor park escalated.
Defence sources confirmed that four of the men are believed to have tested positive for cocaine use, and will be discharged from the Army once they have served their sentences.
The soldiers reportedly serve in the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, whose members guard the Queen and perform ceremonial duties at her homes. An Army source told the Mail: “There was never any danger to the Queen and Prince Philip. They would have had absolutely no contact with the royals or members of the royal household.”
Sixteen Welsh Guardsmen were charged last week, and three still face a Military Summary hearing this week. While jailed, the men will lose half their monthly pay, in line with military law.
The sentenced men have been given two weeks to prepare for their time at the Military Training Corrective Centre, in Colchester, where they will be put through arduous physical training and locked in their dorms from 7PM until 6AM.
In most cases, up to eight detainees share a room, sleeping on basic metal beds, and undergo “a tailored rehabilitation programme which involves physical exercise, academic study and specific counselling, depending on the offence”, according to the BBC.
A former soldier told the Daily Mirror that “there is a lot of anger within the lower ranks in the battalion over the harshness” of the sentences doled out to the 13 Royal Guards. “Look at how little civilians are being punished – and these guys have had half their monthly pay docked and get two weeks in a military jail,” they said.
A British Army spokesman said: “We are proud of our Armed Forces for the support they have provided the NHS in response to COVID-19, but we demand the highest standards of behaviour from all of our personnel. Following a breach in social distancing by several Welsh Guardsmen, an investigation was conducted and the incident has been dealt with internally.”
While the sentences will remain on the soldiers’ military records, they will not receive a civilian criminal record.