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Sikh soldier makes history as he guards Buckingham Palace wearing turban instead of traditional bearskin
22:41 GMT, 11 December 2012
Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace yesterday also offered a glimpse into the changing face of Britain.
Standing alongside his fellow Scots Guardsmen resplendent in their bearskins was Sikh Jatinderpal Singh Bhullar – the first soldier in his 180-year-old regiment to swap the traditional headwear for a turban.
Sikhs have guarded the Queen many times before but have always worn the bearskin.
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On parade: Jatinderpal Singh Bhullar, 25, participating in the Changing of the Guard wearing a turban
Guard: Bhullar is the first soldier posted at Buckingham Palace not to wear a bearskin
There was no mistaking the pride on the face of Guardsman Bhullar, who wears his regimental cap badge on his turban. He has described guarding the Queen as ‘the best thing in my life’.
The 25-year-old former builder from West Bromwich – who will also be distinguishable from his fellow soldiers in F Company Scots Guards by his beard – had dreamed of joining the Army since learning as a boy that his grandfather had served in the First World War.
Some soldiers have said the regiment and its traditions should come before his personal beliefs.
But the Guardsman said: 'Conducting public duties while being a practising Sikh and wearing my turban is a great honour for me.
'I am very proud to be a member of the Household Division and to be the first Sikh Guardsman to mount guard in a turban will be the best thing in my life, especially as a member of the Scots Guards.
'The regiment is full of history, as is my religion.'
Guardsman Bhullar has just joined F Company Scots Guards – what is known as an 'incremental company' of soldiers responsible for delivering ceremonial duties in London.
As a five-K Sikh – someone who adheres to all five symbols that mark Sikh identity – he will also be distinguishable from his fellow soldiers on parade by his beard.
Historic: But some have opposed the decision to allow Guardsman Bhullar to wear his turban
Regiment: The 25-year-old has spoken of his pride at serving the country while staying true to his religion
Sikhs in the Household Division have guarded the Queen many times before, but have always worn the bearskin.
Sikh Chaplain to the Armed Forces Mandeep Kaur welcomed the move.
'Sikhs have served Britain in World War I and II with their turbans intact, confirming their commitment towards righteousness and serving others and living their identity till their last breath,' he said.
'I applaud the British Army for being appreciative and respectful towards diversity.
'I salute the Scots Guards who have shown a great courage by adding more to their rich traditions.
Support: Bhullar's fans have called him 'a credit to the nation' and set up a Facebook page in his honour
Odd one out: The Guards have worn bearskins for 180 years – with no exceptions until now
'Guardsman Bhullar is the first Sikh to do ceremonial duties with the Turban and I, along with the Sikh community, are very proud of him and send our blessings that he makes his regiment proud of him as he serves his nation.'
The soldier faced a backlash from some Guardsmen angry that 180 years of tradition were being sidelined to allow him to fulfil his religious vows.
However, others spoke out in favour of his right to religious expression, with a Facebook group in support of him describing Guardsman Bhullar as 'a credit to the nation'.
VIDEO: Sikh soldier parades at Buckingham Palace
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