A few members of Norway’s elite military unit known as the King’s Guards had some explaining to do this week, after they hid during an emergency drill to avoid reporting for duty. They have since apologized to both the king and the country.
The alarm rang at the end of the day on Monday, and Dagbladet.no reported that the guards didn’t know it was a drill. They thought it was the real thing, that something was threatening the life of a member of the royal family. Instead of spurring them into action, though, the alarm prompted some of the guards living at the royal guards’ barracks at Huseby in Oslo to hide in the bathroom and even under some beds.
“I must stress that double the number of guards who needed to show up, did so,” Major Roy Tore Ottesen confirmed to Dagbladet. “But there were several who tried to get away. There were some guards who hid under the beds.”
Ottesen made it clear that commanding officers know who was involved in the dereliction of duty, and that they were being questioned. He said the emergency drill such as the one carried out on Monday evening “is something we need to do, to uncover weaknesses in our routines.”
The alarm rang just past 7pm on Monday, when the guards involved thought they were off duty. It was over by 9pm and results left many officers upset, also those among the ranks of the retired.
“This is just horrible,” a royal guards veteran and head of their association Gardistforbund, Nils Egelien, told Dagbladet. “If they (those who hid from duty) are really part of the preparedness troop, they should have nothing to do with it.”
It remained unclear exactly what consequences will face those who failed to respond to the alarm. All must be prepared for guard duties for the royal family, although actual personal security is generally handled by the police. The royal guards stand outside the Royal Palace and the Akershus Fortress and Castle in Oslo, at the crown prince’s residence at Skaugum in suburban Asker. Others perform in the marching band and drill units, which have won many awards internationally, but all are charged with royal guard duties that aren’t supposed to be merely ceremonial.
Corporal Fredrik Helland told news bureau NTB that the guards were issuing an apology “to the king and the country … for this betrayal towards our brotherhood. There is no doubt that our assignment is to defend the king, the royal family and the country. We are therefore very sorry that some of us have harmed the confidence and the pride of the First Guard Company of His Majesty’s the Kings Guards.”
Palace officials had no comment on the incident. “This is something the guards must answer for,” Sven Gjeruldsen, assistant communications chief at the palace, told Dagbladet. “We have no comment.”