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SA men to ride for Queen's birthday

2011-06-09 11:13
Johannesburg – Queen Elizabeth II will be surrounded by South Africans when she celebrates her birthday with the British nation on Saturday.

Four of her eight personal cavalry bodyguards are not Britons. They are riders Francois Raats, 25, from Witrivier, Charles du Toit from Richards Bay and brothers Shane and Bradley Marais from Johannesburg.

The eight cavalry guards were chosen from two regiments of soldiers during an extensive and rigorous selection process.

They will participate along with 200 horses and about 1 400 officers and men in the ceremony of Trooping the Colour, which is held annually on the second Saturday of June as part of the Queen's birthday celebrations.

According to the Queen turned 85 on April 21.

Not a rider

However, it became tradition to celebrate her birthday in June because the weather is usually better than in April.

The Queen and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, will inspect the eight riders while they line up in the Buckingham palace courtyard on Saturday, Francois's father Chops Raats said on Wednesday.

The route of the parade runs from the palace to the Whitehall and back.

According to Raats, the four South Africans only met each other in the British army.

His son was not a rider when he joined the British army 18 months ago.

'Not military orientated'

The cavalry division fascinated him and after his basic training he transferred there for further training.

Now, he is considered among the top riders in Britain and his father can hardly believe that this boy from Witrivier now finds himself in royal company.

"Our Family is not military orientated, except for my father who fought in World War II. Francois went to Britain on a student visa a couple of years ago and the army seemed like a good career. My wife (Julia) and I are very proud of him."

Read more on:    queen elizabeth  |  south africa
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