An age old tradition was today maintained as more than 300 ceremonial leeks were presented to soldiers at Hounslow Cavalry Barracks ahead of St David's Day.

Members of the Welsh Guards, who are based at the military camp in Beavers Lane, Hounslow, received the leeks as part of a ritual dating back to 1916 on the battlefields of the Somme.

The Welsh emblems were handed out three days early this year as the patron saint's day falls on a Saturday.

 

Legend has it the tradition originated when King Cadwaladr ordered his soldiers to identify themselves by wearing the vegetable on their helmets during a fierce battle against the Saxons on a leek field.

The troops' families tucked into Welsh cakes and wished each other 'Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant Hapus' (Happy St David's Day) as they watched the ceremony take place to music provided by the Band of the Welsh Guards.

The ceremonial leeks presented to members of the Welsh Guards at Hounslow Cavalry Barracks (photo by Sergeant Steve Blake)
 

Lieutenant Colonel Giles Harris, commanding officer of the First Battalion Welsh Guards, said: "St David's Day has always been a particularly important day for the Welsh Guards. We've celebrated it every year wherever we are since our foundation - in peace or war.

"We are fiercely proud of our Welsh origins and celebrating our patron Saint on St David's Day is a key part of the year. 

"This year, which marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, has particular resonance for the regiment.

"The Great War led to our formation on February 26, 1915, as the fifth and final Regiment of Foot Guards.

"Although we are presented with leeks to honour the saint's day each year, we wear the emblem of the leek everyday, as it is an integral part of our uniform. You can see the famous symbol on our buttons and our cap badges, and we're all proud of its association with Wales."

Today's ceremony was a welcome boost for the regiment, which has been warned by counter-terrorist police to remain vigilant amid fears of a copycat Lee Rigby-style killing.