Cavalry face up to life in plastic armour

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After asking the guards to exchange their natural bear skins for nylon helmets, the Army last night confirmed that the Royal Household Cavalry are preparing to replace their traditional shiny metal breastplates with plastic.

The Household Cavalry are one of the main guards of honour for the Queen on ceremonial occasions such as Trooping the Colour and are regularly on duty at Horseguards in Whitehall.

They have been polishing their breastplates for ceremonial duties for more than a century, and the idea that their cuirasses could be replaced by polymer will cause Colonel Blimps to choke on their gin an tonics.

But an Army spokesman said last night that polymer cuirasses were 50 per cent cheaper than the metal breastplates, and they are were considerably lighter, which was a bonus for the men and their horses.

The horse guards have a policy substituting synthetic products for ceremonial uniform because the 19th-century materials are becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to obtain.

"The Household Division readily accepts any change providing it can be clearly demonstrated that there is no reduction in appearance and that synthetic products do the job.

"Polymer has the advantage of giving the same appearance while being about 50 per cent cheaper than mild steel used in the traditional plates worn on the back and breast," said the Army spokesman.

The guards are fighting a rearguard action to reject nylon bearskins, which they say look like a "bad hair day" after rain.

The cavalry may be be left thinking that it will be only a matter of time before their steeds are replaced by wooden rocking horses.