Gun carriage to carry Queen’s coffin

Queen: Amanda Holden recalls seeing funeral rehearsals

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Final rehearsals for the Queen’s funeral procession have been carried out by more than 1,000 Royal Navy sailors and Royal Marines. Military personnel have been drawn from ships, squadrons and units across the Royal Navy to join the preparations being carried out at HMS Collingwood, Fareham, Hampshire.

Her Majesty’s funeral procession will involve a total of about 6,000 representatives from all three armed forces.

The Navy, according to tradition, will play a key role and will tow the gun carriage which will carry the Queen’s coffin to Westminster Abbey.

Rear Admiral Jude Terry, director of people and training, who is responsible for the Navy’s funeral planning, said: “For me, as a naval officer who has been serving for 25 years, it is an absolute honour and a privilege to have responsibility for delivering the Royal Navy’s contribution to the funeral of Her Majesty The Queen both on a personal and professional level.

“Most importantly, it allows us to demonstrate to the Royal Family, to Her Majesty, how much we respected her, were grateful for her dedication and her service and this is our opportunity to be able to show that in public and to demonstrate to HM The King we continue to serve him as we go forward.”

Warrant Officer Darren “Eddie” Wearing, Royal Navy state ceremonial training officer (SCTO), said rehearsals were “on track” for Monday.

He said: “All my parade staff know exactly what is required and that is exceptionally smart drill and bearing, this is of utmost importance, to do their duty and make sure we have well turned out sailors ready for the funeral.

“We are all now starting to realise it now, for me personally it’s starting to sink in, and as the armed forces community we will do our part, we will do our duty.”

Able Seaman Ryan Howarth, 25, who will be a street liner along the procession route, added: “I feel very honoured, I didn’t think I would ever get to do something like this in my career and to do it after eight months of being in is very shocking but I am deeply honoured about it.

“My grandma recently passed away this year while I was doing my training so I never got to attend her funeral, I am not saying this is her funeral but I will probably have emotions come up on the day.”

When describing the rehearsals, Warrant Officer Wearing said: “They have sped up real quick, we are doing about 12 hours’ marching and drill each day and then five hours of kit and then six/seven hours of sleeping then straight back at it again. We feel ready.”

The Navy’s primary role in the funeral is to tow the gun carriage following the tradition set at the funeral of Queen Victoria in 1902, when the horses panicked and a party of sailors were commandeered to haul it through the streets of Windsor.

In the years since, the carriage, which was originally built in 1899, has been kept in an environmentally secure room at HMS Excellent in Portsmouth.

Its custodian, Lieutenant Commander Paul “Ronnie” Barker, turns the carriage’s wheels a quarter-turn each week to make sure they do not become bowed by gravity.

LCDR Barker said: “I will feel immensely proud on the day, it’s something that has been prepared for many, many years for this occasion and it’s a great honour to be part of the backroom crew, knowing the gun carriage is going to perform to the highest standard along with the sailors who are going to pull the Queen on her final journey.”

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Her Majesty’s funeral will take place at 11am on Monday, September 19 at Westminster Abbey.

The Royal Family’s website said: “On the morning of Monday 19th September, the Lying-in-State will end and the Coffin will be taken in Procession from the Palace of Westminster to Westminster Abbey, where the State Funeral Service will take place.

“Following the State Funeral, the Coffin will travel in Procession from Westminster Abbey to Wellington Arch. 

“From Wellington Arch, the Coffin will travel to Windsor and once there, the State Hearse will travel in Procession to St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle via the Long Walk. A Committal Service will then take place in St George’s Chapel.”

Meanwhile, the Queen’s coffin is in its first full day of lying in state at Westminster Hall.

At 11.34am, it was reported the queue to visit the Queen’s coffin was 3.7 miles (6.1km) long, according to the government’s official tracker.

Those heading to the queue should head towards Tower Bridge, which is where the end of the line is now.

See live updates on the queue to see the Queen lie in state here

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