Duchess of Cambridge presents shamrocks to Irish Guards

The duchess presenting a sprig of shamrock to a six-year-old Irish Wolfhound The duchess presents a shamrock to the regimental mascot

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The Duchess of Cambridge has presented shamrocks to 40 members of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards at their St Patrick's Day parade in Aldershot.

The tradition goes back to the first regimental St Patrick's Day in 1901.

Last year husband William was made an honorary colonel of the regiment and in June the couple decorated members for their Afghan service.

The ceremony was the duchess's first solo military engagement and will start an ongoing connection to the regiment.

Previously the presentation of the shamrocks was performed by the late Queen Mother. The regiment supplied the pallbearers for her funeral in 2002.

Soldiers 'fainted'

The 30-year-old duchess, dressed in a green dress coat, wore a gold shamrock brooch, which has been handed down through the Royal family and was once worn by the Queen Mother.

Shortly before her arrival two soldiers had to be escorted from the parade ground when they appeared to faint.

The late Queen Mother The Queen Mother used to present shamrocks to members of the regiment

Members of the regiment paraded at Mons Barracks in full ceremonial uniform of scarlet tunics and bearskins, accompanied by the regimental mascot, an Irish Wolfhound named Conmeal.

Drummer Oliver Vaughey, 22, who has been a dog handler for two-and-a-half years, said: "He has been our mascot for four years and always marches in front of the regiment."

The military band played the first few bars of God Save The Queen as the duchess readied herself to present the shamrocks to the 40 officers and warrant officers.

She smiled as she was presented with a posy by five-year-old Isabella Stevenson, the daughter of the regimental sergeant major.

She also spent time speaking to members of the Regiment Association and the Mini Micks cadets on the parade ground before being photographed with 100 sergeants and then with 40 officers.

The regiment was formed on 1 April 1900 by Queen Victoria, as a sign of recognition of courageous acts carried out by Irish soldiers serving in the British Army in the second Boer War in South Africa.

Most recently, the battalion took part in Operation Herrick 13 in Helmand province from September 2010-April 2011, as part of 16 Air Assault Brigade.

Their main responsibility was training and mentoring the Afghan National Army as part of their preparation for eventually taking control of the country's security.

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