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SUVA, Fiji Islands (December 27, 2000 – Fiji’s Daily Post/Fiji Live)---A Fiji man has made history by becoming the first local to be selected for the elite Grenadier Guards, the regiment responsible for guarding the Royal Family at Buckingham Palace in London.

Justin Powell, 22, is the first Fiji Islander to join the Grenadier Guards, the troops, which stand guard outside Buckingham and St. James Palaces.

Mr. Powell was on duty three weeks ago during the Changing of the Guard Ceremony outside Buckingham Palace.

The ceremony can attract up to 7,000 people.

Grenadier Guards are famous for their red tunics and large black furry hats, known as bearskins, parading outside the official London residence of the Queen.

Mr. Powell is part of the Queen's Guard, which consists of three officers and 36 soldiers.

He has now been joined by four other Fijians.

Mr. Powell's father, Alfred, said the family was very proud when they heard of the history-making achievement.

"When he called he was very excited. He said during the Changing of the Guard he had never been photographed so much," he said.

He said it was remarkable that he was able to complete the grueling training and make his way into the Queen's Guard within 10 months.

Mr. Powell left Fiji in February to undergo three months of basic recruit training.

He passed out from the basic recruit, taking the honor of `Best Shot'.

After a break and then a further 11 weeks of specialized training he joined the Grenadier Guards, finding his way into the elite Queen's Guard.

Apart from the tough training, Mr. Powell found it difficult to adapt to the cold weather.

Mr. Powell lives within the Buckingham Palace compound during his posting with the Queen's Guard.

Mr. Powell's younger brother Daniel, 20, is also a British Army soldier in the Commandos Unit.

There are about 400 Fiji Islanders in the British Army. Over 1,000 applicants are still on the waiting list here.

The Grenadier Guards were raised at Bruges in 1656 by King Charles II while he was exiled in Belgium.

King Charles, allied to the Spanish, was short of funds and so only five regiments were raised. The most loyal supporters formed the Royal Regiment of Guards.

On his return to England the King raised another regiment of Foot Guards - the King's Regiment of Guards - for his protection. On the death of Thomas, Lord Wentworth in 1665, these two regiments were linked to form the First Regiment of Foot Guards.

This title remained from then until 1815 when, due to the regiment's actions at Waterloo, it was granted its present title.

The Grenadier Guards is the only regiment in the British Army that has gained its title directly from the part it played in action.

For additional reports from Fiji’s Daily Post, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/Fijilive.

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