5.Komp / 2.Gardesbat / Kongl Svea Lifgarde - 1695-1990The unit badge that I wore on my uniform 1987/88The unit badge that I wore on my uniform 1987/88

 

Possunt, nec posse videntur (They accomplish what seems impossible)  


Oldest Regiment in the World - still in service
Gustav Eriksson (1496-1560) - more commonly known as Gustav Vasa.Gustav Eriksson (1496-1560) - more commonly known as Gustav Vasa.Sweden have managed to avoid war since the last conflict they were involved in - The Napoleonic Wars between 1802-1815, but before that period in history it used to be one of the most belligerent nations in Europe.

At the height of it's power, around year 1658, the Swedish Empire completely dominated the Baltic Sea, by holding territories in Northern Germany, Poland, Latvia and Estonia, territories in western Russia and Finland, thus creating a virtual "Mare Nostrum" of the Baltic Sea. At this time, Russia didn't even have access to the Baltic Sea. Sweden was a major power in Europe, comparable to those of France, Great Britain, Spain et al.

In the thick of the many battles stood always the King's own elite regiment - The Royal Swedish Life Guards. This regiment dates it's origins back to the year of  our Lord - 1521 - when a bodyguard was set up for the then King Gustav Eriksson, more commonly known as Gustav Vasa. 16 steady men from Dalecarlia were entrusted with the life of the King. Thus the regiment is the world's oldest, still serving, military unit. 

The regiment, today, consists of both an Infantry (I1 - Infantry Regt 1) and a Cavalry (K1 - Cavalry Regt 1) unit. 

 

Different names

The regiment has had a list of different names since it's establishment as a Royal Bodyguard. From it's very early years the name of Kungliga Drabantkåren (Royal Drabant Corps) was recorded in 1523. Names like Drabanterna (TrabantsKonungens Hofregemente (The King's Court Regiment), Gula Brigaden (The Yellow Brigade), Kongl. Majestäts Lif-Guardie (Royal Majesty's Life Guards), Konungens Lifguardie (The King's Life Guards) were used until 1793 when the regiment was named Svea Livgarde ("Old Swedish" Life Guards).

Due to some unsuccesful actions during the Finnish War of 1808-09 the Regiment was degraded to a line regiment - The Fleetwood Regiment - by the disappointed King Gustav IV. The Guards status was duly restored in 1809, as the unpopular king was forced to abdicate as a result of a swift and unbloody coup d'etat or minor revolution that took place that year. Sweden established a parliamentary monarchy.

In 2000 the Regiment was once again renamed, due to the endless reorganisations in the now almost non-existent Swedish Defence Force, the new name being simply - Livgardet (The Life Guards).

 

Battle scarred 
Battle of Lützen (1632) and the death of the "Lion from the North" - Gustav II Adolf.Battle of Lützen (1632) and the death of the "Lion from the North" - Gustav II Adolf.
The regiment has been heavily engaged in almost all Swedish wars and conflicts ever since it's foundation. In some conflicts and battles it was so heavily decimated or even completely wiped out so that it had to be re-established a few times over. 

Active throughout the Swedish War of Liberation, 1521-23, the continuous campaigns on the continent during the Thirty Years War, 1648-48, the epic and sometimes glorious battles during the long struggle of the Great Northern War, 1700-21, through the Russo-Swedish War, 1788-90, where the Regiment's last battle victory is recorded (Battle of Svensksund - 1790) ... all the way to the less glorious battles of the Finnish War, 1808-09, when the Eastern half of the Swedish Kingdom - Finland - was lost to the Russians.  

As the Swedish Dominions on the European mainland had been lost, bit-by-bit, especially after the Great Northern War, and the disastrous loss of the Eastern Half - Finland - the once mighty nation had taken a back seat in the European power struggles. Having sided with the Allied Coalition against Napoleon in 1812, Sweden was promised Norway - then part of Denmark and allied with Napoleon's France - as counterweight to the loss of Finland. As Napoleon's forces were pushed all the way back to Paris in 1814 - Sweden embarked on, what proved to be, it's latest military campaign against Norway. A short campaign that ended with Norway being included in a Union with Sweden. The union lasted until 1905 when Norway, by peacefull means, gained indepence from Sweden. 

 

Elite regiment

In contrast with the general allotment system, which was in common practice in the Swedish Army, the soldiers of the Life Guards were always recruited, thus the regiment always maintained a status of an elite regiment. When Sweden enforced the Common Conscription Service in 1901 even the Life Guards were formed into a Line Regiment later in 1942, albeit still with some specific ceremonial duties like Royal Palace Guards, state visits and ceremonies.

Training  and discipline was rigorous but in the early years there was hardly ever a shortage of new recruits because of the fairly good terms offered and great career opportunities. Well, terms better than in the other Provincial Regiments.

The majority of the soldiers stemmed from the nearby provinces of Svealand and Östergötland and also from the Western Finnish provinces of Ostrobothnia, but recruitments were also made from the ranks of professional soldiers from all over Europe.

Officers had to go the long way from being an ordinary rank and file before they could gain their commissions. It was regarded practicable for the officers to have a good understanding of  the life and terms of the ordinary soldier. Many of the Life Guards officers ended up as Regimental commanders of the Provincial Regiments.

Note that the King of Sweden is and has always been the supreme commander of the Regiment.

 

Place of honour

Ceremonial duty in the Capital, early in the 20th century.Ceremonial duty in the Capital, early in the 20th century.During the Great Northern War the Lifeguards was the biggest regiment (in numerical strength), ranging from 1,800 to 2,600 men at it's strongest. Always placed at the honorary position, to the right of the battle line, the Life Guards were always at the vanguard in every major battle during the war.

After the disaster at Poltava, 1709, the regiment was lost almost to the very last man while the remnants of the formerly so potent Swedish Army fled to the enemy of their enemy - Turkey - where they were exiled whilst hoping for the Turks to engage the Russians.

Only after the King's return to his native soil, in 1714, after an amazing journey through Europe where they covered 150 kms/day and mostly on horseback, did the Regiment start to rebuild and regain it's former strength. As the King launched his second offensive into Norway in 1718 the Regiment was at full strength. In the battle of Fredrikshald, King Carl XII, the warrior King of Sweden, was killed during the siege of Fredriksten. The entire expedition, also replicated further north, ended in total disaster.

 

Garrisons

The purpose built Garrison at Linnégatan - Stockholm, shortly after it's completion in 1888.The purpose built Garrison at Linnégatan - Stockholm, shortly after it's completion in 1888.Throughout it's long history, the regiment has mainly been garrisoned in the Swedish Capital of Stockholm, albeit in various locations. From the early years and for centuries onwards the Guards were mainly housed by the citizens of Stockholm. 

In 1803 the Regiment received it's very first own barracks at Fredrikshofs Slott

In 1888 the regiment moved into it's first purpose built barracks at Linnégatan, where both the Guards Regiments (Svea and Göta Life Guards) were housed next to each other. See picture on left.

As the Regiment was transformed into a regular Field Regiment, in 1942, it was decided that the regiment was to be moved away from the city, for the first time in 4 centuries. The move being waterstamped in 1947, the next location was to be Sörentorp, in Solna, just north of Stockholm. 

In 1970, the Regiment moved even further away from the Capital, ending up some 30 kms north from the Capital - in Kungsängen at the very northern outskirts of Stockholm County. This remains still the home of the Regiment. 

                                                                          

In the defence of the capital

During the years of peace the regiment has served as palace and ceremonial guard to the various Kings of Sweden. Among the other duties have been, and still is, the defence of the Swedish capital. 

Today the regiment is a modern, mechanized unit, partaking in numerous UN-missions. It also houses the Army's Military Music School and an international UN-Training Centre.

 

My service in the Life Guards

I did my, then, mandatory Conscription Service (or National Service) in 1987/88, in this tradition-burdened regiment. After 10 months in the “green service" I ended up a Furir - or Lance Sergeant in more common European terms - as a section leader in a rifle company.

The service included extensive field and combat training but also some ceremonial duties, such as the changing of the guards at the Royal Palace and also at Drottningholm, the residentail castle just outside Stockholm. Another very nice part of the service was the Guards exchange with our Scandinavian Colleagues, H.M. Kongens Garde (Norway) and Det Kongelige Livgarde (Denmark). I was chosen to be part of the Swedish contingent that had the privilege to visit the Norwegian Guards at their excellent Husebyleiren in Oslo.

Life Guards in m/1695Life Guards in m/1695Life Guards in m/1765Life Guards in m/1765Life Guards in m/1807Life Guards in m/1807life Guards in m/1865life Guards in m/1865Life Guards in m/1887Life Guards in m/1887Life Guards in m/1959Life Guards in m/1959Life Guards in m/1990Life Guards in m/1990
        

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since 2005 I have partaken in the historical associations of the regiment, the Musketeers of the Life Guards Infantry regiment and Fifes and Drums of the Lifeguards. Today I am a "free-lancer", taking in events wherever I can and may.

My uniforms range from the end of the 17th century through the conflicts of the Great Northern War and the Seven Years War, to the fairly peaceful period, at least in Sweden, of the 19th century.

Despite my very strong Finnish roots I still feel a certain pride in re-enacting the Royal Life Guards, mainly because of it's long history and also due to my having done my military service there. Also Sweden and Finland have had a long and common history stretching over 600 years. During the period of the Swedish Empire, Finnish soldiers always filled the ranks of the Swedish armies.

  

Regimental Marches: "Livgardets Gamla Marsch, Defileringsmarcsh & Livgardets Marsch (click on the colours below to listen to them)

Life Guards Colours from 1686 (click here to listen o the Old March)Life Guards Colours from 1686 (click here to listen o the Old March)

Life Guards Colours c:a 1820 (Glick here to liste to Defilation March (I.Gustafsson)Life Guards Colours c:a 1820 (Glick here to liste to Defilation March (I.Gustafsson)

Life Guards Colours current issue (click here to listen to Life Guards March (W.Körner)Life Guards Colours current issue (click here to listen to Life Guards March (W.Körner)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Life Guards Old March                   Life Guards Defilation March     Life Guards March

   Composer: unknown                       Composer: I.Gustafsson             Composer: W.Körner

 

Battle honours

The Battle of Narva (1700), still regarded as the biggest victory in the history of the Swedish Army.The Battle of Narva (1700), still regarded as the biggest victory in the history of the Swedish Army.Liberation War 1521

Battle of the Rhine 1631

Lützen 1632

Warsaw 1656

March across the "Baelts" 1658

Halmstad 1676

Lund 1676

Landskrona 1677

Narva 1700

Crossing of the Düna 1701

Kliszow 1702

Holowczyn 1708

Svensksund 1790