Wednesday, September 21, 2022

The young pallbearers of the Queen's Company, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards are illustrating the best of British and Commonwealth values

Pall bearers from the Grenadier Guards lead the coffin away at the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey

Even when the cameras are switched off, their duty will not be over

 By Lord Dannatt

After days and nights of rehearsal and years of planning, members of the Armed Forces who took part in the ceremonies in London and Windsor on Monday can allow themselves a moment of congratulation on a job well done. 

None of it is easy. Every action in every part of the pageant requires concentration, determination, physical effort and total commitment. 

What fuels the mind and body is adrenaline, underpinned by pride. The core of that pride is the Oath of Allegiance that every member of the Armed Forces swore on their first day in uniform. 

Pall bearers from the Grenadier Guards load the coffin onto the gun carriage at the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey

It is invidious to single out any individual or unit for particular praise as the cast list is so varied, but spare a thought for one group of young men — the pall bearers from the Queen’s Company, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards. Recalled at short notice from the Middle East to fulfil their long-planned and traditional duty, they literally had the full weight of responsibility on their shoulders. 

A lead-lined coffin is very heavy and manoeuvring their precious load up and down steps, on and off gun carriages and catafalques, in and out of vehicles — all under the constant gaze of billions on television, not to mention the concerned scrutiny of His Majesty The King, the Royal family and senior members of the Household Division — is no easy task. 

These young guardsmen deserve particular praise. 

Even when the cameras are switched off at the end of the day and the final private service of committal was being held at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, their duty will not be over. 

Deep in the Royal Vault under the chapel, the pallbearers had one final unseen duty — to move the late Queen’s body to its final resting place close to her husband, The Duke of Edinburgh, and to her father, King George VI. 

Once all is complete, then these young men too can relax and reflect on their very difficult job, extremely well done. 

Whether a participant in any of the ceremonies of the last ten days or merely a spectator, everyone will take away their own memories and recollections. 

Walking on is what we all must do now. We have a new King. There are many challenges ahead. However, of one thing I am sure: the detailed planning for the coronation of His Majesty King Charles III is well under way when, once again, we will see the pride and professionalism of the British Armed Forces on display. We mourn our late Sovereign’s death; quite properly we grieve; we give thanks; we pause a while and then equally properly we celebrate our new Sovereign’s coronation. 

The bands will march again down the Mall, the harnesses of the Household Cavalry will jangle, the Monarch will enter the Abbey and St Edward’s crown will be placed on his head. God save the King. 

Lord Dannatt is a former Chief of the General Staff

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