Update posted on the 18th September 2016 after a personal visit to Mullaghmore in the County of Sligo in Eire, and to Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland, which is, for my purpose in this story, by what is called the 'Narrow Water', just fifty meters or thereabout from Eire itself.  Rather than breaking up this, the main story, I have added it as a stand alone story, which tells you about the Memorials in both places [with supporting pictures]. Please click here Update on visit to Mullaghmore and Warrenpoint September 2016 either before reading the main story below or after the read. If you choose the former, remember to come back here on completion of the update read. Thank you.


The Ceremonial Funeral of Lord Louis Mountbatten of Burma


If that whetted your appetite to see more of the Royal Ceremonial funeral, then look here to see the whole affair


As the Leader of the Coffin Bearers at Lord Mountbatten's funeral I kept a diary of every event on each of the days from his death to the day of his funeral.  After the funeral, I used the diary entries to write a book which is now, by the kind and gracious permission of The Countess Mountbatten of Burma, at Broadlands. Broadlands is the former home of Lord and Lady Mountbatten at Romsey, Hampshire, England, a delightful place to visit and a must for all devotees of the Mountbatten era.

Parts of the book are reproduced here along with pictures and documents. Click to enlarge Please note that whereas coffin bearers, for example, as a part of speech, would be in lower casing unless it began a sentence, here, in this essay, it is in upper casing {capitals} to reflect the specific function  of each group as published in the various ORDERS of the day.  Please also note that in 1979, WRNS [Woman's Royal Naval Service] were not part of the Royal Navy and women officers were not saluted by male naval personnel.  They were mustered and marched/drilled in a women's unit [comprising of navy, army and air force females] with a parade position towards the rear of the procession.

Admiral of The Fleet The Earl Mountbatten of Burma KG, PC, GCB, OM, GCSI, GCIE, GCVO, DSO was brutally murdered on August Bank Holiday Monday 1979 by the Irish Republican Army [IRA] in County Sligo Eire.  At the time of his death he was on holiday with his family at their Sligo home and was enjoying a boating trip in Sligo Bay on a warm and sunny day.  The bomb which had been placed in the boat was exploded by cowards from ashore using a remote radio device.  Lord Mountbatten, who was a widower, a father, a grandfather, an uncle and a great uncle  died with his fourteen year old grandson Nicholas, his eldest daughter's mother-in-law the Dowager Lady Brabourne and a teenage boy from Sligo.  Also in the boat was Lord Mountbatten's eldest daughter Patricia, Lady Brabourne, with her husband Lord Brabourne.  They were both seriously injured and hospitalised for a lengthy period unable to attend the funeral of her father, and saddest of all [my words], the funeral of their son Nicholas, a twin.  Lady Patricia  became The Countess Mountbatten of Burma on that sad and infamous day.

Born of Royal stock at Frogmore, Windsor, in 1900, the great grandson of Queen Victoria and christened Louis Francis Arthur Victor Nicholas Battenberg, he was called Dicky by his family and friends.  His father was also Prince Louis of Battenberg .  In 1917, King George V founded the House of Windsor, and Battenberg became Mountbatten.  Both he and his father became the First Sea Lord.

On the very same day at Warrenpoint, County Down, Northern Ireland, 18 young paratroopers were blown up and killed by an IRA land mine.

The British people were stunned by these beastly murders and there was great national mourning.  Just two years before, in 1977, the popular Mountbatten's had maintained a high profile to help Her Majesty The Queen  celebrate Her Silver Jubilee,  the event being a qualified success throughout the land. Lord Mountbatten was an uncle to HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and of course a great uncle to his children.   It was said that HRH The Prince of Wales saw Lord Louis as a hero, much enjoying his company and his wisdom.  He was clearly adored by the Royal family and he was a warm and enthusiastic supporter of its modus operandi.

Click to enlarge

 Just one short month before, on my 41st birthday the 27th July 1979, whilst appointed as  the Officer of the Watch [OOW] in HMS Mercury, I had met Lord Mountbatten during his last visit to attend the Signal Officers Reunion.

My book starts with the following statement.

"This is a personal and factual account of the events leading to the funeral of Lord Louis Mountbatten, covering the period Monday 27th August to Friday 7th September 1979.

Each event, occasion and venue, was recorded at the end of each day in my diary, the contents of which were used to compile this essay.

The essay was written during the remaining days of September and was completed on the 15th October 1979"

It is then dedicated as follows:-


The lasting memory of Lord Mountbatten; to his family who died with him and to all those who live to continue the illustrious name of Mountbatten.

My Service, the Royal Navy, with my eternal gratitude for allowing me to represent them as the leader of the London Bearer Party.

The Bearers themselves for all their hard work, their loyalty, and for bringing lasting credit upon the Communications Branch and HMS Mercury. 

My family, who from this honour shared in my immeasurable pride to the full.  


I received the following letter from HRH The Prince of Wales five days after the funeral





   [For the purists. HRH referred to Kelly Squadron but he really meant GT Section, where I, with my boss Lieutenant Commander Rodney Cave Royal Navy, were the technical equipment instructors for the PWO[C] course on which the POW was a  course member].

A list of the London Bearer Party


Lieutenant R E Doyle Royal Navy

HMS Excellent

FCRS G Dykes

HMS Mercury

CRS E N Davies

HMS Mercury

CRS D Timmington

HMS Mercury

LRO R Milne

HMS Mercury

LRO C J Williams

HMS Mercury

LRO T Foster

HMS Mercury

LRO I B Murphy

HMS Mercury

LRO M B Watson

HMS Mercury

RO1 S D Whitham

SM2 Devonport


CPO J H Elliott

HMS Excellent


LRO D Lovatt

CTF 345 Northwood

Cook C Eames

HMS Mercury


LRO H R Jackson

HMS Mercury

RO1 G B Vaughan

HMS Mercury

                             Click to enlarge        Click on the map on the left to see the actual procession route.   However, the overall funeral route was complicated with every available bed in every inner and outer London Barracks taken by participants in the funeral which in the end, involved several thousands. All these people had to be bused long distances into central London to Wellington Barracks which acted as a huge marshaling yard. I am showing the accommodation of the bearers [Chelsea Barracks] and the route they took, as well as the route of the gun carriage and its crew, accommodated in Pirbright Barracks many miles from central London. These little animations may help you to follow the routes which I have named 1,2 and 3.  The text below will also assist you greatly as you come across it.

 All subsequent extracts from my book will be shown within a single table.

At 0645 on Tuesday morning the 28th of August 1979, I received a telephone call from the Duty Lieutenant Commander [DLC] HMS Mercury telling me that I had to report to HMS Excellent the Naval Gunnery and Ceremonial Training School in Portsmouth by 0830 that morning for a briefing and selection process.  I reported for duty wearing civilian clothing, and attended a briefing on outline planning;  I was also provisionally told that I would play a major part in the Ceremony either in London or in Romsey.  The rest of the day was spent in discussion with fellow warrant officers, who like myself, had been recalled from leave or who had volunteered for this prestigious duty.

During the first day the Ceremonial Training Staff were continuously frustrated because not enough ratings were reporting for training owing to recall difficulties. Many of the sailors had just completed an arduous three days supporting Portsmouth Navy Days which finished on Monday the 27th, and their promised 'reward' leave had to be cancelled.

All UK VIP funerals are planned in advance and always with the knowledge,  and acquiescence of the VIP concerned. Recently we have witnessed the very private funeral of HRH The Princess Margaret Countess of Snowdon culminating with a cremation in Slough. If you are interested in Royal funerals I recommend to you Olivia Bland's book The Royal Way of Death ISBN  0 09 465430 1, which has a  section on Lord Mountbatten's funeral.  Once you start, you will not put it down - it is a compelling read.

Funerals for members of the Royal family excluding The Monarch and based on precedents , are usually wholly private both Church and graveside;  public lying-in-state and all things afterwards private;   full London Ceremonial culminating with a private burial or reduced London Ceremonial culminating with a private burial.   An example of each of these is respectively HRH The Princess Margaret Countess of Snowdon; HM Queen Mary; Admiral of The Fleet Earl Mountbatten of Burma and  Diana, The Princess of Wales.  The Monarch always receives a State funeral as do those whose service to this country is unique in their life time, but only with The Monarch's permission.  There are only four such persons who have qualified namely Lord Nelson in 1806 {died in 1805 aged 47 of his wounds received at the Battle of Trafalgar and is buried in St Paul's Cathedral}, Duke of Wellington in 1852 {died at Walmer Castle Kent aged 83 and buried in St Paul's Cathedral}, Mr William  Gladstone in 1898 {aged 88 and buried in Westminster Abbey} and Sir Winston Churchill in 1965 {aged 90 and is buried at Bladon near Blenheim Palace}. 

 Before continuing with British funerals let us take a quick look at the funeral of Britain's arch enemy of 18th and 19th century, namely Napoleon Bonaparte, or more correctly Napoleon I.   Napoleon died in British captivity on the South Atlantic island of St Helena in 1821, but his body was not repatriated to France until 1840.  On arrival back in Paris, he was given a full State funeral after which he was laid to rest in St Jerome's Chapel. In 1861, a full forty years after his death, Bonaparte was finally laid to rest at LES INVALIDES [which translated, means 'The Valid One'] in Paris.  Like all 19th century State funerals, no expense was spared, and Napoleon's body lies within six separate coffins.  They are made of iron, mahogany, two of lead, ebony, and the outer one is red porphyry.  The tomb sits on a green-granite pedestal surrounded by 12 pillars of victory.  In that same decade, 1865,  the assassinated U.S. President [shot on the 14th of April] Abraham Lincoln was laid to rest in Springfield Illinois after a long journey by train with many lyings-in-state at various stops along the way starting with the White House; Capitol Hill, New York City Hall etc.      Twelve days after the assassination on April 26th, the U.S. Cavalry shot dead the assassin, the other four implicated [three men and a women] being hanged together in public on July the 7th. Hanging was regularly practiced in the U.S.A., but either the skill of the drop - to achieve instant death - was not perfected, or they wanted the victims to suffer, and by so doing,  ensuring that the audience got value for money!  Andrew Johnson, the new President  and other members of the Executive were convinced that the assassination of the President  and the planned assassinations of himself as the  Vice President and the Secretary of State, were 'ordered' from the South by the Confederacy.  If Johnson did order the victims to suffer, the hangman met his request in full for it took in excess of five minutes to strangle the group of four to death.  A sixth person, accused of holding a horse which the assassin would have used to make his escape, received seven years in prison.


Since much of my story is about the ceremony at state/ceremonial funerals, I couldn't pass this section without referring to Lord Nelson's state funeral, a hero without parallel even to this very day. Tom Pocock's book Horatio Nelson {ISBN 0 304 32240 7} published by Cassell Publishers Limited of Artillery Row, London is a 'must have' book for all who seek to understand this subject more fully.  I am on my third read {over a 10 year period}, and would suggest that Tom Pocock is the ultimate authority on Nelson and the naval scene over the 100 years from mid 18th to mid 19th century.  In the Epilogue to his book, Tom Pocock tells of what happened when the Victory arrived back in UK waters, what happened to Lord Nelson's family and the fate of Lady Hamilton, and gives an account of the ceremony at his funeral.   First, note that the Victory had arrived at the Nore, near to the mouth of the River Thames in Southeast England and near to Chatham, Kent, where she was built.  Here is a short snippet. " The body was placed into the coffin made from the mainmast of the l'Orient seven years before and which he had prized with such grim humour; appropriately, this was done on board the Victory* The coffin was then encased in another of lead and this, in turn, within one of wood and taken up the Thames to Greenwich, accompanied by Nelson's chaplain, Alexander Scott, and John Tyson.  There it lay in state for three days in the Painted Hall before being escorted to a funeral barge by five hundred naval pensioners, many of whom had known Nelson when young.  The boat itself was his own barge from the Victory, pulled by his own crew, and the accompanying mourners  were led by two of his old commanding officers, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Peter Parker, who had recognised his talents in the West Indies a quarter of a century before, and Admiral Hood, who had given him his head in the Agamemnon  and who was now Governor of the Royal Hospital at Greenwich.  {Click to enlargeThis picture is of Permit number 476 to Admit, one, Charles Burney Esq into St Paul's Cathedral.  I am very grateful to The Secretary of the Navy Club at Southsea, Portsmouth for allowing me to photograph and use this Permit, and to Commander Alan Norris RN Rtd.,  for kindly arranging the event}.  {I am informed that the latin phrase could be either "you are in the presence of one who has served with courage" OR "It is splendid to serve [as a soldier or warrior - or sailor in this case] with courage - or fiercely"}  Nelson's body was taken to London in a procession of black-draped boats and barges between banks lined by thousands.  It was no stately progress because this boat-service, like those in his life, was dogged by problems; on this occasion by a south-westerly gale. So, as the flotilla approached the Tower of London and the great dome of St Paul's and the minute-guns began to boom, his arrival by boat was once again attended by the sound of wind and gunfire. The coffin was landed at Whitehall stairs and taken to the Admiralty where it lay that night in the small panelled room to the left of the entrance hall still attended by the chaplain.  He was buried next day, Thursday, 9th January, 1806, with all the pomp at the nation's command.  Now encased both in the wood of the l'Orient and an outer coffin covered with black velvet and decorated with gilded emblematic and heraldic devices, he was borne through the streets of London on a funeral car designed to suggest a ship of the line. Nearly ten thousand soldiers marched in the procession that was so long that its head had reached the cathedral before the rear had left Whitehall.  Sailors from the Victory walked ahead of their dead admiral carrying the white ensign that the ship had flown off Cape Trafalgar, sometimes opening the folds to show the shot-holes to the silent crowds.  The body of Nelson was accompanied along the Strand and Fleet Street by friends who remembered him there, including Alexander Davison and William Haslewood.  Thirty-one admirals and a hundred captains attended him, often meeting each other face to face after years of separation by the sea, having conversed only by signal-flags read through telescopes.  Through the silent streets the procession wound to the slow beat of the Dead March played on fifes and muffled drums and, as the funeral car approached, a ruffling sound ran ahead of it as the men watching from pavement, windows and rooftops, bared their heads.  The funeral service lasted for four hours without one single woman being present, neither his wife Frances [Fanny] nor his lover Lady Hamilton, as was the custom of the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth centuries. Beneath the dome hung a chandelier of a hundred and thirty lamps; below the floor of the aisle an elevator had been built to lower the coffin into the crypt.  All took place according to hopes and plans - the perfect, sunlit winter's day: the well-ordered procession and the immense, reverent crowds - until the last moment.  Then the forty-eight seamen from the Victory were to fold the battle-ensign and lay it upon the coffin; but, when the time came, they rent a sheet of cloth from the flag and tore it into pieces: one for each man.  It was an impulsive, emotional initiative worthy of Nelson himself.  When the coffin was at last lowered into the crypt it was laid in a black marble sarcophagus originally designed for Cardinal Wolsey three centuries before. " 
*The l'Orient was the Flagship of the French Admiral Brueys at the Battle of the Nile [Aboukir Bay] which Nelson, in Vanguard thoroughly defeated the French fleet. l'Orient's  destruction was spectacular. She was an enormous ship, 120 guns and was first attacked by the Bellerophon [74 guns] who was severely damaged. The Swiftsure [74 guns] and the Alexander [74 guns] took over and between them set fire to the Frenchman. One hour later she blew up with an explosion so immense that the battle stopped for ten minutes.

Perhaps the best example of a very private Royal funeral was that of Prince Albert The Prince Consort at which there was no Pageantry, no women,  not even his wife Queen Victoria who was  inconsolably bereaved  and domiciled at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. 

Lord Mountbatten therefore received a full London  Ceremonial funeral.

The outline planning, obviously done before the death has enough detail to make it easily convertible into an operations order the moment the person is known to have died. In Lord Mountbatten's case, it was suggested that he had almost written the whole of the outline planning document, which in itself was very detailed involving no fewer that 507 personnel from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines.  In his official biography, an excellent book written by Philip Ziegler and published by Book Club Associates by arrangement with William Collins Sons and Co Ltd, Philip Ziegler describes Lord Mountbatten's approach to the task of planning his own funeral.  By the time the General Officer Commanding London District had written his actual funeral operations order, Mountbatten's numbers had increased three-fold.  As an example I have included just the front page of each of the orders [outline and operational] which are, regrettably, difficult to reproduce here.  The outline planning document dated 1977 was a revision of the outline planning document dated 1975 and is a Naval document; the funeral proper, is the Army document dated the 31 August 1979, a few days after the Slygo murders.

   Click to enlarge  Click to enlarge   Each document has many more pages with planning down to the very last detail. Here, I must tell you that not all in the OP Order followed the request made by Lord Mountbatten, namely, that the Bearers should be members of the Communications Branch of which, he was the senior member. In the 70's, HMS Mercury [the alma mater for all Communicators] had a First Lieutenant and an appointed Assistant, known as XL {Executive Lieutenant}.  Officers appointed to this job were not necessarily Communicators although many were. In 1979, XL was an aviator who had pranged his helicopter whilst flying too close to a destroyer!  When he appeared in HMS Excellent as being the second officer {as per op order} from HMS Mercury - Gordon Perry was the other officer and a proper Communicator - the Whale Island 'mafia' seized upon the opportunity to replace him.  If HMS Mercury could not supply a Communicator, then the prestigious job was up for grabs, and Lieutenant Robert E Doyle, of HMS Excellent replaced HMS Mercury's XL.  After the funeral, Bob Doyle wrote to me saying that he would always consider himself an honourary member of the Communications Branch and no other officer could have performed that job better than he did.  Lord Mountbatten would not have been displeased.

On Wednesday morning I arrived in  HMS Excellent  at 0815.  The weather was warm and sunny and my thoughts were with  Lord and Lady Brabourne and their son Timothy who were in hospital in Slygo recovering from their wounds received in the cowardly boat bombing;  they would miss the funerals of their son Nicholas, Lady Brabourne's father and Lord Brabourne's mother.

It was a hectic day in every sense for all concerned, both instructors and students.  We had  so many problems that at times some of them seemed insurmountable.  Approximately three hundred men of every age, shape, size, frame of mind, who had come mainly from the Portsmouth and Plymouth areas, arrived in dribs and drabs.  Just about all of them were in need of a hair cut, and because HMS Excellent was in the middle of summer leave, there was no barber available and the men were not particularly displeased with our obvious predicament.

Some years ago it was decided that the traditional sailors suit [the type I had worn from 1953 until  1963] was outdated and should be replaced.  The time scale for sailors to change from the old to the new {a more relaxed and informal style of uniform} style suits [considered hideous by many of us older hands] was extended until late 1979 or early 1980.  On that Wednesday, half our three hundred sailors had the old suits and the other half the new ones, or, none at all [they had been left at home].  To complicate matters further, of these three hundred men, there were many Chief Petty Officers and Petty Officers who had volunteered for the Gun Carriages Crew.  They had to be dressed as ordinary ratings in sailors suits, and therefore they had to swap the peaked-cap [fore and aft rig] for a round-cap [square rig].  They were subsequently issued with a full sailors uniform [new style] at no cost to themselves; the suits being written off the by Ministry of Defence.

For Ceremonial to be effective, sizing of men with similar stature is essential but almost impossible with twenty percent of the men to be sized out of HMS Excellent in civilian barber shops being shorn of their over long hair.  No sooner had a six foot tall rating been put alongside a five foot eleven inch tall rating  and  the two paired for a specific position, than a new six foot tall sailor would arrive and the original pair split up, re-paired and re-briefed.

A rather sweet young lady arrived in HMS Excellent at lunch time having been recruited as a temporary ships barber. The sailors soon got wind that she was  a 'hair butcher' and the last I saw of that drama was a room full of young Wrens awaiting the scissors, and at least one of them had very wet eyes!

From lunch time onwards things began to gel, and by tea time of a glorious day, sizing was near completion.

At 1730 I was officially informed that I was to have the lead part in the Ceremonial London funeral and that I had to pick eight very strong and physically similar sailors [with two spares] for the London Bearers, and that  FCCY Leslie Murrell MBE, the Romsey Warrant Officer, would pick his team for Romsey Abbey where the private burial would take place. The pride I felt at being told what function I had to execute was immense and immeasurable, and I became rather emotional.  I went to the toilet to be alone, to be in reach of something to wipe a tear and to wash away its stain.  My thoughts were racing and I was trying to imagine what the actual event would be like and whether or not my recurring stomach illness [I had major abdominal surgery in 1976] and my left knee [which partially seizes after long walks] would let me down and bring irreversible disgrace upon myself. I was 41 and in the twilight years of my naval career.  The funeral of a murdered Royal would obviously be an emotional time for the nation and for all those who were to take part in the Ceremony. In the privacy of my surroundings I found it difficult to believe that I had the honour to represent the Royal Navy.

After sizing, sailors were put into Groups and assigned to special tasks e.g., Bearer Parties, Gun Carriages Crew, Marching Escort and Westminster Abbey Lining Party.  The Navy also supplied many officers and ratings for Street Lining, but HMS Collingwood undertook the training of this Group, and apart from seeing these men at rehearsals in London and the day of the funeral proper, we never met or worked with them.

Several professional barbers were promised for the next day.  Payment was organised to cover the days ahead, and a mobile clothing store would be on hand for new caps, boots, suits etc., at a price.

Before I mention the Gun Carriage in this funeral, I want to tell you about how the Royal Navy started its association with it, at State and Ceremonial funerals. 

This picture shows Eastney Royal Marines Barracks. In the centre of the picture from foreground to background is the Marines accommodation block.  To the left of it and not far from being the same length, is the indoor Drill Shed.  Click to enlargeTo the right there are two grassed areas with a large Parade Ground in the middle, and to the top and upper middle right, the sea and promenades.

Used as a Hearse, the Gun Carriage is a 20th century precedent, at least for the Royal family. Before that time, the Hearse was a horse drawn vehicle bedecked with heavy funereal artefact, the horses as much as the funeral car, and the followers were usually pedestrian.  When a Royal died in residence, that is at Windsor Castle as did George III, George IV, William IV [Victoria's immediate predecessors] and Prince Albert, their funerals were 'in-house' as it were, negating the need for Ceremonies outside the Castle, and certainly not in London.

 London had not long ago witnessed the 'funeral of all funerals'  [but on a par with that of Lord Nelson in 1806] and certainly one of the longest Processional routes of all time, when in 1852 the nation said its goodbye to the Duke of Wellington, just  9 years before Albert's very private funeral.  It was calculated that those wishing to say goodbye to The Duke of Wellington would be so great, that they built a funeral car of enormous height to be pulled by many horses, [16] , on top of which they placed his Coffin in clear view to all from Chelsea Pensioners home to St Paul's Cathedral.  Those of you who know London will appreciate this huge distance! That funeral car is preserved and on show at The Duke's ancestral home at Stratfield Saye in Hampshire, another must for history buffs.

When Queen Victoria died at Osborne House in 1901 she was the first Monarch to die away from Windsor since George II who died at Kensington Palace in 1760. It was she who had the first of the State/Ceremonial funerals we speak of today, where the Monarch's body has a lying- in- state [ usually in Westminster's Great Hall with plaques in the floor to show where each and every Monarch has laid -in- state in years gone by,  [another big must for Royalists]] so that their subjects could pay homage and say goodbye, followed by a Ceremonial Procession through the streets of London to Paddington Railway Station and from there by Royal Train to Windsor.  At Windsor, the Ceremony would continue with a second Procession from the Railway Station leading to the steep steps outside the West Door of St George's Chapel in the Castle.  There, the Church Service would take place and the Monarch's Coffin would be lowered into the central vault.  At a later time and in private, the Monarch's Coffin would be moved to its appointed place usually  within the Chapel [though Albert and then Victoria were moved out of the church and the Castle to the Mausoleum at Frogmore within the grounds of Windsor Castle] to rest in peace. There are 11 Monarchs at rest in the Chapel.

At Queen Victoria's death, her body was moved from Osborne to Cowes on the Isle of Wight and thence to the mainland, with great dignity Click to enlarge  Click to enlarge.  Victoria did not have a London, funeral [nor a lying-in-state] but merely passed through a small section of it [a route measuring approximately 4.2 miles] whilst transferring from her arrival station to her station of departure to Windsor viz, Waterloo to Paddington.  This picture from Olivia Bland's The Royal Way of Death, gives one the overall feeling of State Pageantry with  the footmen and horses almost dressed for a happier event like a Coronation.  Click to enlarge  In fact, by her own hand and written funeral arrangements, it was just that,  a happier event, and you will note that the Queens coffin is  draped in brilliant white,  overlaid with her personal royal standard, and none of the trappings is funereal suggesting gaiety.  In her coffin the Queen was dressed in her white wedding dress and veil. Gone the morbidity of her own grieving for the loss of her own husband, and in came a return to normality, a normality normally seen after a decent period of bereavement. The train station that serves Windsor Castle is called Windsor and Eton Central,  immediately under the great clock of Windsor Castle, and that station is fed from Paddington. However she arrived in London at Waterloo having being diverted from the Gosport line to the Portsmouth line -  see the train route on this page

Now two files covering one subject a WORD file and a PDF file and you can mix and match them as your prefer.
The reason for is is the need of a powerful magnifier in the PDF so you can zoom in on old pictures one of them from 1898 and also [and separately] have the subject supported by text.


 The coffin therefore had to be transferred from Waterloo to Paddington and this, as the picture shows, was done using a splendid bedecked gun carriage pulled by horses from the Royal stables guided by members of the Royal household. Part of the route passed by her home of Buckingham Palace as painted in the picture.

However, the Windsor Ceremonial funeral was a shambles as the following text and picture shows  Click to enlarge   Click to enlarge  Click to enlarge .  Note how the sailors are looking everywhere instead of to their fronts.  It must have been extremely embarrassing for all who observed this undignified scene.  The text comes from another excellent book which I recommend called Whaley - The story of HMS Excellent. 

Click to enlarge  With Queen Victoria the precedent was set, namely that from henceforward, the Monarch [irrespective where he or she died] would have a State funeral with Ceremonial  in London and in Windsor, and this has continued with the deaths of Edward VII, George V Click to enlarge [front cover] Click to enlarge [back cover] Click to enlarge and George VI. Queen Victoria's London Ceremony, as you have seen, had, as a centre piece,  a Gun Carriage pulled by horses from the Royal Household whereas Edward the VII's London Ceremony was  centred around a Gun Carriage pulled by the Royal Horse Artillery. The Royal Navy's involvement with the Gun Carriage for both London and Windsor State Ceremonial started with the funeral of George V.

In truth there are one or two accounts of this episode and what follows is given by the most important man in the land when it came/comes to State Pageantry namely the Earl Marshall of England the Duke of Norfolk. This is cropped from this webpage so read this account here Taken from the funeral of Kind Edward VII nine years after Queen Victoria's death.docx in which he suggests that the horses were spooked by an eerie silence as well as by the cold. However, I am extending my red double 'S' sign  to an article further down this page, so I am going to ask you to keep an eye open for the double 'S' mark which is quite some way below but very obvious,  and coincides with an article in brown-coloured font. This new article is without doubt the correct version of what really happened and is written by one of the officer most involved with the gun carriage.

  Since you have now read the reason for the Royal Navy having the privilege of pulling the Monarch's Coffin on a Gun Carriage it becomes obvious that there must be a Gun Carriage in London and a separate Gun Carriage in Windsor.  Two quite separate Crews would be required each with different skills and training. It fell to Chatham, the Naval Base in Kent [and closer to London than Portsmouth]  to supply and man the London Ceremonial Gun and for Portsmouth, the Naval Base in Hampshire, the Windsor Gun.  The Chatham Gun was kept and maintained at Woolwich {see also HMS PEMBROKE [at Chatham] GUN CARRIAGE.jpg} and the Portsmouth Gun in HMS Excellent.  The basic difference in training was that London is more or less flat with exceptions like Ludgate Hill in the City [for St Paul's], but Windsor has steep hills which could be darn right dangerous. Click to enlarge Here are two pictures of King George VI's funeral at Windsor, the one on the left explicitly showing the hilly terrain, but the one on the right hides the fact that the front drag-ropes are about to go into first gear at the foot of the hill ahead of them Click to enlarge. The Gun had to be taken from the Windsor Railway Station to the step's at the West Door of St George's Chapel within the Castle, which as the crow flies is a short distance [I would guess somewhere near 200 meters]. However, because that 200 or so meters was  up and down  hills  [and  very steep hills at that] the Gun travelled in a zig zag fashion along parallel streets until the approach to the main private vehicular entrance [now also the main entrance to the Castle for pedestrian visitors] was less of a challenge. The up hill task led to the Castle's Upper Ward [the Royal apartment's are in the Upper Ward], past the statue of Charles II, down through the Norman Gate into the Middle Ward, and then down hill into the Lower Ward ultimately to the main entrance of St Georges Chapel.   This challenge involved great strength [up hill by the men in front pulling, and down hill by the men behind acting as a brake] whilst all the time keeping their timing, their bearing and their dignity, trained not to show the physical strain they were under and conscious that they were the 'engine' of the Royal carriage bearing the coffin of our much loved and  deceased Monarch.  Believe you me, a great honour for those sailors.

These next pictures are of the funerals of Edward VII, George V, George VI, Winston Churchill and Lord Mountbatten.  Clearly, the Navy had mastered the necessary technique at these funerals!  The other pictures show the Royal Navy ranks the Royal Family held in in the late 70's early 80's.  The events between death and burial of a Monarch are sometimes confused, and the word Funeral is taken to mean an event.  In reality, there are several events [at least more than one] as the following example shows. When King George VI died in 1952 at Sandringham, his coffin, pre-made of Sandringham oak just like that for his father King George V] was taken from Sandringham House to the tiny estate church of St Mary Magdalene, a typical village church, small, dignified, peaceful,  in which the King worshipped every Sunday during his residence at the house and where Estate workers stood their vigil for three full days of total and utter privacy.   Then, on the fourth day [the sixth day after death],  the coffin was taken on a horse-drawn Gun Carriage [RHA]: [this gun carriage was the gun carriage used at the funeral of HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in London]  to the local Railway Station of Wolferton and brought to London by train to Kings Cross, where from, and only ten days before, he had left London for his beloved Sandringham: that was phase one and two. At London's Kings Cross station, his coffin was met with all the trappings of State and was taken in a Ceremonial Procession by a RHA-drawn Gun Carriage supplied by Woolwich , to his Lying-in-State Ceremony at Westminster Hall some three miles away with countless thousands looking on : phase three.  The next phases involved the Royal Navy and its two Gun Carriage's to the full, phase four being from Westminster Hall to Paddington  Railway Station [a one mile journey via Whitehall, St James's Street, Edgware Road, Sussex Gardens etc.,] where the King left his sorrowing and mourning London, to  phase five , from Paddington to Windsor and Eton Railway Station, and thence, phase six from the station  to St Georges Chapel in Windsor Castle, all phases constituent parts of the Funeral. The steam locomotive which pulled the Kings coffin from Paddington was called the Windsor Castle and had a Royal Crown on top of its engine just forward of the engine funnel.  It is important to understand  this, because subsequently, any one of the four Gun Carriage's used for King George VI, could be used as the Gun Carriage for a Ceremonial Funeral as was the case for Lord Mountbatten, and more recently, HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Whilst I am not qualified to comment upon army ceremonial at Royals funerals, it is my understanding that the guards also alternated [as did our naval gun carriages] for King George VI funeral, where, at Kings Cross station, the coffin was borne by Coldstream Guards en route to Westminster Hall, but for the State Funeral proper, by members of the Kings Troop Grenadier Guards. 

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An extremely interesting WEB site visit for Royal deaths is to be found at
and for Sir Winston Churchill at


The Gun I am now going to talk about is the Portsmouth Gun and therefore, the Windsor Gun.  

The Gun Carriage, which had been used for King Edward VII, King George V, King George VI and Sir Winston Churchill, was brought out of its show case and made ready for another Ceremonial funeral.  It was a massive and beautiful object weighing nearly three tons. It had been given to the Royal Navy for safe keeping by King George V after the funeral of his father King Edward VII, and it had [has] pride of place in the centre of HMS Excellent covered by a glass case.  

It was not until Friday morning when Mr Michael Kenyon, the Royal undertaker, sent the measurements of the Coffin that we realised the Gun Carriage Coffin platform was about two inches too short at six foot six inches.  The Shipwright Officer and his staff had to add a two inch block to the head-end, and thereafter, to re-site the Coffin locking bar which was to hold the Coffin in position during its journey from St James's Palace to Westminster Abbey.  They did a good job, and the colour matching and texture of paint to match the Guns deep green, was perfect.  We saw little of this Gun in our Portsmouth practice days and we used a Royal Artillery Gun in lieu which had been used in London for the State funeral of King Edward VII.

The second day ended at 2030 and I travelled home with men who had been brought in from the aircraft carrier HMS Bulwark.  We talked of nothing else but the forthcoming event and of how proud we were to be involved. I got indoors at 9pm very tired, but from now on, very high on the event to come.  I hardly slept a wink!

On the 30th August we began training for real at the Royal Marines Barracks at Eastney, Southsea.  I had gone there by car, but the bulk of our manpower was transported daily to and fro between HMS Excellent and Eastney by lots of RN thirty-six seater coaches.  Eastney was used because the traditional training area, the Parade Ground at HMS Excellent was being used to stage the Royal Naval Equipment Exhibition [RNEE] Click to enlarge, and because of leave, there were no Royal Marines in the Barracks, so we had the place to ourselves.

RMB Eastney then*** was ideal for our purposes and the glorious early autumn weather allowed us  to use the large Parade Ground and the equally large indoor Drill Shed to best advantage.  The Royal Marines museum was open for business as usual, and so from the word go those Groups training on the  Parade Ground were open to inspection by the public visiting the museum as well as by holiday makers viewing from the Barracks perimeter railing which ran along the sea front parallel to the promenade.  The public therefore witnessed our early training  and all the errors of drill we made.  They must have viewed the event with horror and feared for the great British Pageantry.

*** Eastney today, is now a partition where the officers mess/wardroom is the Royal Marines Museum; the barracks proper is now called Marine Gate Estate, a mixture of various types of properties. However defined, a sad place  today compared with the Home of Royal Marines proper many of whom took part in this, the last of the massive and splendid Royal Funerals. It is doubly upsetting, that this area is now the venue for wedding receptions and other parties where the Museum Authorities themselves sell alcohol resulting in the encouragement of loutish behaviour bringing the dignity of the Museum to an unacceptable level. 

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From about 0930 until lunch we practiced the 'Bearers slow march' which was painfully slow and laboured, by slow marching up and down the Parade Ground.  The normal Naval way of marching [or walking for that matter] is to step off with the left foot swinging the right arm forward, although one often sees the left arm working with the left leg when people are trying a little too hard to remember what comes naturally!  If a member of a Group, the only real worry is to remember to keep in step and to move in unison.  Marching with a Coffin, where each man steps off with his inside foot i.e., left hand four men with their right foot and the others with their left foot keeping step with the person marching in front of the Coffin, is not so easy.  This method of marching was alien to Naval Ceremony which dictates that the first bang on the drum on stepping off should coincide with the left foot. The reason for marching in this peculiar fashion is to stop the Coffin from swaying side to side, and synchrony of step had to be achieved before we started to use the practice Coffin.  By the time we broke off for lunch we were coping well as a team, and I sensed a growing esprit de corps and pride of purpose amongst my charges young and not so young!

Early on in the proceedings Bob Doyle and I had watched a small portion of the State Funeral for Sir Winston Churchill {January 1965} taken in St Paul's Cathedral enroute from the Great West Door to the catafalque placed under the dome. Frankly it was a shambles although it is not my intention to apportion blame! The shambolic march could have been caused by several reasons but whatever it was, the coffin travelled in a crab like fashion up to fifteen degrees of its centre line of approach with the right hand bearers nearly off the carpet, often nearly colliding with members of the congregation sat on the right hand side. However, one possibility was that the bearers feet and thus their body movements, were out of synchrony, and it proved to be an embarrassing sight to the trained eye.  Below is a snippet. Note the straight line of approach of the warrant officer leading the bearers with areas to his left and right of equal distance which also applied to the officer at the rear [head end] of the coffin.  The coffin itself should have been behind this warrant officer but as it was, the left hand bearers ended up in that position.  Although a tall order because soldiers, especially foot guards, are well trained in ceremony whereas we were not, we nevertheless vowed that at all cost, we would get this part right and we did.

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 Lunch, on all our days in Eastney was a cold salad buffet brought ready to serve from HMS Excellent.  It was adequate for the men with soup and fresh fruit or fruit yogurt, but a monotonous diet.  Like so many others, I had too much on my mind to be really interested in food.  Whatever, the catering staff had a difficult job to feed three hundred odd men on a self service basis in less than one hour, and they did it well without complaints.

During my lunch break I talked with many civilians,  holiday makers who had entered RMB Eastney ostensibly to see the museum but the sound of the Royal Marines Mass Bands had been too much of an attraction for them.  They were elderly couples in the main, full of sympathy, who were keen to know what was going on.  During that first day of training, I had a sneaking suspicion that the ladies were dying to mother young sailors, and the men were dying to smother others for their incompetence and mistakes.  I should record here for posterity, that none of our men was Ceremonially trained [like many soldiers are] but ordinary sailors - cooks, stewards, engine room men, computer men, clerks etc - who had volunteered or who had been detailed.  The Instructors too, although excellent men and proficient in their trade, were not immediately conversant with the special drill procedures.  The last time the Royal Navy  had trod the streets of London pulling a Gun Carriage was fourteen years ago at the State funeral of Sir Winston Churchill, and the expertise gained during that time had long since been lost to the Service.  I wonder whether these same elderly couples who watched the funeral Ceremony changed their minds about our Military Bearing?

After lunch two Coffins arrived from HMS Excellent each with its own Union Flag/Union Jack ? {This URL will take you to an excellent WEB site which will settle any argument}.

Additionally, each Coffin had its own weights and trestles.  One was made of ordinary pine and the other was painted grey.  We, the London Group took one Coffin plus accessories to one end of the Drill Shed and the Romsey Group theirs to the other end.  From this time on, both Groups practiced in the privacy of the Drill Shed away from the Parade Ground, the civilian on-lookers and the inevitable ghouls. From the beginning, the very obvious requirement of knowing how heavy the actual Coffin would be was to be kept from us despite many enquiries.  The time we did get to know we were lifting it on the evening  before the funeral day at St James's Palace!  We were regularly told that the Grenadier Guardsmen who carried Sir Winston Churchill, carried one thousand pounds, and many speculated that Lord Louis's Coffin would be similarly constructed of solid oak and lined with lead.  We were given four large sand bags and told authoritatively [in a manner of speaking] that the Coffin plus the sand would give us a realistic training weight.  It was comforting to know that Leslie Murrell and his Romsey Bearers were doing exactly the same thing.  Training started with an empty Coffin so that we could get the orders and corresponding movements worked out before putting the muscles to work.  The movements were basic and soon mastered.  They involved the Bearers slow marching, with our special step, towards the Coffin, halting when the two sailors who carry the feet-end arrived at the head of the Coffin, turning inwards to face one another, raising their hands to chest height palms uppermost, both feet-men pulling the Coffin off its rest platform using the head handles, and the Bearers passing the Coffin down amongst them by hand movements. When all their hands were in place, the order was given to lift. At this order the Bearers raised the Coffin to shoulder height and at the same time they would turn to face the feet-end of the Coffin, putting their inner arms onto the shoulder of their opposite Bearer and simultaneously lowering the Coffin onto their shoulders.  They were then ordered to turn a given number of degrees in a given direction so that on completion of the turn, the Coffin, which always travels feet first [secular], was pointing towards the right direction.  The next stage was a little more difficult because it involved the strange marching I mentioned earlier, namely, making sure that the Coffin did not sway.  We soon mastered this march and then concentrated on avoiding the embarrassment of me unknowingly racing ahead of the Coffin and losing control because my orders would not be heard; or, and of equal importance, going too slow and getting a bang at the back of my head. Chief Radio Supervisor Timmington [Tim] assumed the  responsibility of telling me to slow down or to speed up from a basic step governed by an imaginary built in metronome of tick-tock, which I uttered to myself throughout training and on the big day itself.

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The afternoon was broken up by the NAAFI tea lorry arriving which was to come morning and afternoon on Friday and Saturday.  It coped well with all the men's drink and sandwich requirements, although to avoid bottlenecks the officers and senior rates had their own tea-boat in a room off the Drill Shed.  Men were released to attend the promised barber now incumbent in Eastney, and also to go to the two large Naval clothing vans which were busy selling article's of new uniform for cash or on the slate [known in the Navy as the ledger].

In addition to not knowing the true weight of the coffin, we were also to experience order and counter order from nebulous sources of information,  Two  such events were to affect our involvement in the purchase of kit.  We were told that Westminster Abbey would be carpeted from the Great West Door to the Lantern as it is on all Royal occasions.  This would create problems when marching because the step cannot be heard and the rhythm can easily be lost.  It would be difficult to 'glide' along on a carpet with rubber soled shoes.  Therefore, it was decided that all the London Bearers would wear the same style of shoe with leather soles and heels.  In 1979 only officers shoes met this criterion [ratings shoes being totally unsuitable for Ceremonial anyway] but they were approximately seventeen pounds Sterling a pair compared with approximately four pounds for ratings shoes.  Reluctantly, I ordered all the men to purchase officers style shoes with a promise that when I returned to normal duty, I would do my best to get the difference of thirteen pounds reimbursed.  Several weeks later, these men each received the full seventeen pounds back at the suggestion of the Captain of HMS Mercury, Captain S D S Bailey Royal Navy. As well as new shoes I also bought a new white plastic cap cover and a new cap badge.  Later, on Friday, we heard that there would be no carpet in Westminster Abbey after all, but worst still, the sailors of the Bearer Party would have to wear boots with white webbing and not shoes.  It looked as though the sailors would now have to buy a pair of boots in addition to shoes, but after a rather heated telephone call between myself and a  Chief Petty Officer in HMS Nelson followed by an amicable person to person discussion with a fellow W.O. , it was agreed that my men would only sign for the boots on loan until after the completion of the funeral.  Later on, I learnt that these boots had be written off in the same manner as the sailors suits issued to senior rates, had been.  The navy has many books of reference [BR's] covering every duty, function, piece of equipment, whatever, and the BR relevant to ceremonial drill was BR 1834.  In May 1972, the 1949 edition was withdrawn and replaced by an updated book.  At the time of the funeral, two changes had been incorporated, the last, change 2 being issued by directive P1428/78.  For some reason best known to the Director of Naval Manpower and Training, chapter 7 'funerals' still reflected the pre introduction of the Fleet Chief Petty Officer in 1970 [later, post 1983, known as Warrant Officers] even though other chapters mentioned them.  It seems petty now, but such an omission caused all kinds of misunderstandings from footwear to armbands when, as written, a CPO had boots and no mourning armband whereas his replacement, the FCPO had shoes and an armband.

Shortly before tea break on that Thursday afternoon, I met Lieutenant Bob Doyle Royal Navy  for the first time.  He was the Officer-in-Charge London Bearer Party, and as military tradition has it, he was to march at the head-end of the Coffin [i.e., following the Coffin] leaving me at the feet-end of the Coffin to give all the orders.  He looked after us very well on the administration side and he fully committed himself to being a team member.  At the time of the funeral he was the Training Officer at the RN Regulating School [the Navy's Police Academy] in HMS Excellent.

Gradually we started to put things together and we finished the day with a weighted Coffin much straining of arm muscles and tired feet.

I arrived home and with my wife watched television which showed the arrival at Eastleigh Airport of Lord Mountbatten's Coffin, and those of his family who perished with him.  The Coffins were  carried by the Royal Air Force, put into three Hearses and then taken to Broadlands, Lord Mountbatten's home at Romsey.

Friday the 31st August started off back at Whale Island [HMS Excellent] where we were given special permission to enter the large marquee which was being prepared to house the Royal Naval Engineering Exhibition.  We went there because the whole area had been carpeted with large carpet tiles, and it was considered that this would give us a feel for a carpeted Westminster Abbey.  In the event it was a waste of time because the carpet texture was nothing like a quality pile carpet.  Also, as I have previously mentioned, the carpet in the Abbey was a non starter, but we did not know that until later in the day.

At 0930 we went back to Eastney where we continued to practice each separate part of our duty, and when happy we put the event together bit by bit.  Tim and I were growing ever more confident that with his guidance I could stay close enough to the Coffin to look as though I belonged to the Bearer Party.  Using the trestles which had come with the Coffin, we picked the Coffin up and placed it down again and again lifting approximately a quarter of a ton each time.  Our Instructor was Chief Petty Officer Biff Elliott who had joined the Navy with my recruitment at HMS Ganges on the 13th October 1953.  He was a character with a coarse but amusing verbal patter and a man who combined humour with diligence.  He applied steady pressure on our training and monitored our progress.

At 1100 after our tea break, a Hearse from the firm of Royal undertakers, Kenyon's,  arrived so that we could practice taking the Coffin out of the Hearse ready for the following Tuesday evening.  The driver told us that this was the actual Hearse which would be used and that he would be the driver on the day.  We made a flippant comment that Lord Louis deserved a V for Victor registered vehicle and not a S for Sierra registration.  The driver answered by reminding us that Royal deaths were thankfully so infrequent that it was not cost effective to have a new vehicle each time.  After twenty minutes and three lifts, we were happy with what we had to do and the Hearse left the Drill Shed.  Before we stopped for lunch, Bob Doyle arrived to tell us of the ever changing plan.  Originally, we the Bearers, were to do our Coffin movements at the respective points of departure, and then travel to the next arrival point by a Police escorted car.  Now we were to stay with the Gun Carriage throughout and march through the streets of London.  We were absolutely delighted of course, but true to form in the early days, nobody would say exactly where in the Procession we would be.

According to the Times newspaper of 4th September 1979  this event was to set the precedent for the Royal Navy conveying the remains of the deceased monarch [and other VIP's granted high-status funerals]  throughout the London and Windsor funeral ceremonies. Click on the thumbnail.

This letter to the Editor of the Times of 1936 is of great interest and both amplifies and adds to the story on the left. Note in particular his last paragraph!

In your issue of January 25 [1936] you refer to the historic gun-carriage to be used tomorrow. It is stated: At Queen Victoria's funeral there was an unfortunate contretemps in connection with the horses which were to have been used to draw the coffin up the hill at Windsor, and the blue-jackets [naval ratings] manned the drag ropes in the emergency.
It would, perhaps, be more accurate to say that the contretemps was in connection with the so termed gun-carriage than "with the horses" or their handling by the Royal Horse Artillery.
February 2, 1901, was a bitterly cold day with some snow, and the gun-carriage, under the charge of S Battery, R.H.A., [Royal Horse Artillery] and under the independent command of Lieutenant M. L. Goldie, had been kept waiting at Windsor Station, together with naval and military detachments, etc., for a considerable period. I had posted N/R.H.A. which battery I commanded, in the Long Walk ready to fire a salute of 81 guns, commencing when the cortege left Windsor Station for St. George's Chapel, at about 3 p.m. I placed Lieutenant P. W. Game (now Chief Commissioner of Metropolitan Police) in command, and proceeded to the station to ensure that signalling arrangements were perfect. When the Royal coffin, weighing about 9cwt., had been placed on the carriage, drums began muffled rolls, which reverberated under the station roof, and the cortege started.
Actually, when the horses took the weight, the eyelet hole on the splinter bar, to which the off-wheel trace was hooked, broke. The point of the trace struck the wheeler with some violence inside the hock, and naturally the horse plunged. A very short time would have been required to improvise an attachment to the gun-carriage.
However, when the wheelers were unhooked the naval detachment promptly and gallantly seized drag ropes and started off with the load. The "gun-carriage" had been specially provided from Woolwich and was fitted with rubber tyres and other gadgets. This was due to Queen Victoria's instructions after seeing a veritable gun-carriage in use at the Duke of Albany's funeral, as also was the prohibition of the use of black horses.
On February 4, in compliance with the command of King Edward, I conveyed the royal coffin, on another carriage, from Windsor to the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore by means of the same detachment of men and horses. I may add that a few days later King Edward told me that no blame for the contretemps attached to the Royal Horse Artillery by reason of the faulty material that had been supplied to them.
I have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient servant,
Cecil B. Levita
January 27th 1936"
Cecil B Levita retired prematurely from the army as a lieutenant colonel in the RHA. He was knighted for his services to the Royal Family receiving a KCVO [knight of the Royal Victorian Order]. He became a very able administrator in civil life and finished his career as the Leader of the London County Council having his office in the massive building at the southern end of Westminster Bridge now part hotel and uses other than government or local government business. He died on the 10th October 1953, the very day on which I left home as a 15 year old to join the Royal Navy! His other post nominals in addition to the KCVO were CB and DL, respectively Companion of the Order of the Bath, and Deputy Lieutenant [for Middlesex], a civic role assisting the Lord Lieutenant of the county to represent the Queen in that county.

After lunch we temporarily gave up our isolated training in the Drill Shed and joined the Gun Carriages Crew on the Parade Ground. In that one and half days of training the Guns Crew had already grown into a team albeit lacking polish, but nevertheless the sense of belonging had been cemented.  We were new boys, strangers in their camp and an additional burden they could well do without.  We were ushered to fall-in at the rear of the Spare Numbers who were fell-in behind the Gun Carriages Rear Drag Rope Numbers.  I was at the front, Bob at the rear and the Bearers in file.  The Procession was formed up with the Marching Escort in front, the Massed Bands of the Royal Marines, the Gun Carriage and Crew, Spares and us, followed by the forty-odd Wrens who had just left training in HMS Dauntless, and bringing up the rear [though they would not march on the day] the Abbey Liners.  The Wrens trained for the first couple of days only in Eastney, then disappeared to Guildford for joint training with the WRAC and WRAF contingents.  We marched around the Eastney Barracks perimeter road and used the two gates each side of the main accommodation/Drill Shed block to simulate the Arches of Horse Guards Parade in London. Those first few perimeter marches were not good and we continuously had to change step because the Front Drag Rope Number's of the Guns Crew  lost step with the Band.  I am not sure why but the Band kept changing the beat, and discussions took place between the RM Bandmaster and the RN Ceremonial Staff.  At last we went round looking like a military body of men and it was plain from the Instructors faces that they were happy and more relaxed.  A decision was made that at 1900 that evening we would all march on Southsea front from Eastney to Southsea Pier and back, to get some idea of what we would have to do in London.  The march was an utter shambles with the Band altering its beat and the leading Group regularly initiating a change of step sequence.  The promenade was packed and many people witnessed our less than professional first public rehearsal which, after a short stop at the pier, was completed in darkness.

I left for home as soon as the Procession was dismissed happy with the progress we had made as the Coffin Bearer Party, but not happy with our involvement in the Gun Carriage Group.

 After the funeral I received so many letters praising the Bearers for their dignity and bearing.  Many were passed on to me by my Commanding Officer, Captain S D S Bailey Royal Navy, and some were addressed in such a way that I wonder how they ever found me ......."English sailors in London" for example.  Many were addressed to me personally. Click to enlarge  I have far too many to publish, and anyway, were I to do that the originators  would not be best pleased at seeing their  address published across the WWW. Click to enlarge However, as an example I am publishing just two, plus an article about our visit to Broadlands at Lord Romsey's invitation, as well as  a short piece taken from the Mercury Messenger No 6 dated April 1980 {the Messenger was the Padres monthly newspaper on St  Gabriel's, HMS Mercury's Nissan-hut Church.  The Padre at the time was the Rev Tony Upton. Click to enlarge   

Click to enlargeIn the article about Lord Romsey, who incidentally will become The Earl Mountbatten of Burma at the death of his mother Patricia, The Countess Mountbatten of Burma, the newspaper reporter wrongly mentions Pall Bearers. It is a common mistake made by many, and to set the record straight I thought it useful if I were to define the difference between Pall and Coffin Bearers.  The Coffin Bearer is self evident and needs no further explanation, except to say that in military Ceremonial there are eight of them instead of the usual six used for domestic funerals.  I have researched the reason for this but the outcome is vague leaving just two plausible answers.  The first is pure and simple emotion: the need to touch and be involved in the last journey of a leader, a hero, a loved one, a martyr, and we see this sad event time after time on our television screens particularly from the Middle East where the dignity of death is lost in a mad scramble to be near the Coffin.  When the Ayatollah Khomeini was buried in Iran his Coffin was nearly torn to shreds by the emotional crowd of men.  The second plausible explanation is that Ceremonial Coffins were made of solid wood, usually oak and often lined with lead, destined to lay in a vault or mausoleum rather than to be buried or cremated.  Today's  Coffins are rightly made from chipboard or even cardboard and are therefore less heavy. 

 Here I have added the Oxford English Dictionary [OED] definition of pall, and you will see that it is number 4 of a long list of definitions: - 

4. A cloth, usually of black, purple, or white velvet, spread over a coffin, hearse, or tomb.
_1440 Prompt. Parv. 378/1 Palle, or pelle, or other clothe leyd on a dede body,_capulare.
1463 Burial Ord. in Antiq. Rep. (1807) I. 315 The first herse coueryd with whit within the pale & parclose.
_1515 Cocke Lorell's B. 8 A ryche pal to ly on ye corse late fro rome is come.
1538 Croscombe Church-w. Acc. (Som. Rec. Soc.) 43 Received of Edyth Honythorne for a knylle and the pall vj.d.
_1674 Clarendon Hist. Reb. xi. _245 When the Coffin was put in, the black Velvet Pall that had covered it was thrown over it.
1712 Addison Spect. No. 517 _2 The coffin was carried by six of his tenants, and the pall held up by six of the quorum.
1852 Tennyson Ode Wellington 6 Mourning when their leaders fall, Warriors carry the warrior's pall.

Note particularly the entry for 1712 where it suggests that the Coffin Bearers were subordinate to the Pall Bearers.  The quorum most of us are familiar with relates to a given number of people, but as the next definition from the OED shows, a quorum means something very different:-

|| quorum (________).
[L., lit. _of whom', from the wording of commissions in which certain persons were specially designated as members of a body by the words quorum vos...unum (duos, etc.) esse volumus _of whom we will that one (two, etc.)'.]
1. Orig., certain justices of the peace, usually of eminent learning or ability, whose presence was necessary to constitute a bench; latterly the term was loosely applied to all justices.
1455 Rolls Parlt. V. 334/1 The Justicez or Justice of the Pease of the Quorum yn the same Shire.
1495 Act 11 Hen. VII. c. 2 _5, ij of the Justices of the peas wherof one shalbe of the Quorum.
1559 Mirr. Mag., R. Tresilian vii, At sessions & at syses_In patentes & commissions of Quorum.
1581 Lambarde Eiren. i. ix. (1602) 46 So that the one of those two [Justices] be of that select number, which is commonly tearmed of the Quorum. For these of the Quorum were wont_to bee chosen, specially for their knowledge in the Lawes of the lande.
1625 Massinger New Way i. i, Old Sir John Wellborn, Justice of Peace and Quorum.
1691 Wood Ath. Oxon. II. 274 George Wither_a Justice of Peace in Quorum for Hampshire.
1728 Vanbr. & Cib. Prov. Husb. ii. i. 43 I'm o' th' Quorum---I have been at Sessions.
1855 Macaulay Hist. Eng. xxii. IV. 705 A squire who was one of the quorum.
1619 Hutton Foll. Anat., Ixions Wheele E iij b, The Gods_Quorum Iustice warrants sent by poast.
b. transf. Applied to similarly distinguished members of other bodies; hence, a select company.
1602 Warner Alb. Eng. ix. xlvi. (1612) 216 The Hellish Potentates_a new Commission framed, Narcissus ghost and Ecchos voice therein of Quorum named.
_1661 Fuller Worthies (1840) III. 187 He was afterwards of that quorum in the translating of the Bible.
1678 Marvell Growth Popery Wks. 1875 IV. 329 [They are] so small a scantling in number, that men can scarce reckon of them more than a quorum.
1747 Scheme Equip. Men of War 24 A Quorum of Surgeons_should be ordered to_examine them.
1859 Green Oxf. Stud. ii. _10 (O.H.S.) 128 The deepest sot among the topers of the quorum.
1659 A. Brome Panegyr. Verses in R. Brome's Wks. II, These would-be Quorum-Wits, and by their own Commission, do invade Apollo's throne.

A pall therefore, is a piece of cloth or material held high above a Coffin by using a number of poles [six in this case- one on each corner and one either side] held by six eminent people who were known as Pall Bearers.  They of course walked on the outside of the Coffin Bearers.  This was common practice at Royal funerals and was used right up to the mid 19th century.  In Olivia Bland's book, The Royal Way of Death, there is a rather strange picture of the Coffin of Prince Albert, The Prince Consort entering St George's Chapel at Windsor.  The picture shows that the Coffin Bearers are underneath a stiffened Pall which is resting on top of the Coffin, the sides of the Pall protruding outwards for some distance at a 45 degrees angle. There are no Pall Bearers!

At Lord Mountbatten's funeral, the Pall Bearer's were:-

Rear Admiral Chit Hlaing
General de Boissieu
Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir William Dickson
Lieutenant General John Richards
Admiral R L Pereira
Admiral Hayward
General Sir Robert Ford
Admiral of The Fleet Sir Edward Ashmore.

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On Saturday I left home early at 0650 and arrived at Eastney at 0730.  The weather continued to be warm and sunny which made the early week-end start easier to bear.  We continued with Coffin movement training until 0900, again marching up and down the Drill Shed. Shortly after 0900 the Bearer Party went by private cars to Portsmouth Town Railway Station, where a  goods entrance gate was opened to allow us to park in the railway yard.  To the left of our parking area was an old platform with an old goods wagon alongside, its double doors open, and  to which was attached a wooden ramp.  The Romsey Group, who were just completing their training using the railway carriage, left for Eastney leaving their practice Coffin for us to use.  Based on their experience, we practiced a routine whereby when the leading two Bearers came to the bottom of the ramp, I halted the Bearers and turned them inwards, lowered the coffin to chest height and then side stepped up the ramp, me following on into the carriage.  Once onboard the carriage, we turned right and put the Coffin onto trestles.  We repeated this manoeuvre several times under the watchful eye of Fleet Chief Petty Officer Henry Cooper who was to travel with the Coffin from Waterloo to Romsey Station on the day of the funeral.  His job on the day would be to take all the Ceremonial trappings off the top of the Coffin and replace them with a single family wreath, because as soon as the train left Waterloo it became a private funeral.  We had mastered yet another routine with its corresponding new set of orders, and the pressure was beginning to build up.  After approximately forty-five minutes in the Station we left and went back to Eastney just in time for NAAFI tea.  During the tea break, Bob Doyle, Biff Elliott and I discussed the forthcoming Procession rehearsal which was to take place one hour before lunch, and which would involve us integrating into our new position in the Ceremony.

At 1030 we took our places actually alongside the Gun Carriage, each column of Bearers  with Bob and I in the rear, placed either side of the great wheels, each standing approximately five foot ten inches tall.  Each column of Bearers consisted of six persons which were the four Bearers, the officer or warrant officer, and a Cap Bearer.   We were to maintain this position throughout the remaining training period and on the day of the funeral. The march route was now familiar although we felt a little anxious and self conscious in our new position, but after the Friday evening Southsea affair, we could surely only get better regardless of our position.  The order came to step off at the slow march and the motionless three ton Gun and Limber started to move forward, their solid rubber tyres digging in and assisting traction.  From my position on the outside of the Gun Carriage I had a good view of a large section of the Forward Drag Rope Numbers and they were a truly creditable sight, all in step, carrying themselves with good military bearing, and each man doing his very best to make this march a success.  I could not see the Rear Drag Rope Numbers, but their leader, Commander Tricky Royal Navy, was silent and therefore I assumed well pleased with his men.

The whole march was a qualified success and the many shirt-sleeved civilians present on that warm Saturday morning, must have realised, as we did, that we were nearing our goal.  We were well on the way to quote Captain Bethell Royal Navy,  to nothing short of excellence unquote. The London route was timed to take thirty eight  minutes and the Eastney route was made to last for approximately thirty three minutes.

When we dispersed for lunch, there was an air of confidence amongst the men, and I believe that it was at that point that those who had been compulsory recalled from leave and who were therefore  not exactly pleased to find themselves undergoing parade training on a Saturday afternoon, suddenly decided that there was no way they would miss the oncoming London rehearsals and the funeral itself.  It had taken nearly five days to achieve this level of morale and we had three days left in which to exploit the men's willingness to do their very best.

During the lunch period the television cameras arrived in the Drill Shed and were being set up ready for recording a programme for the national network called Nationwide.  Also during the lunch hour, Biff had been talking to his fellow Ceremonial Instructors about off-caps for the Bearer Party; a routine practiced on earlier days by the Gun Carriages  Crew.  It was something new to learn and not at all easy.  Men dressed as sailors had to master a detailed movement which was to involve putting the cap on and taking it off with the chin-stay down, using just the fingers and thumb of the right hand.  We, Bob and I, had also to learn, indeed devise our own routine for removing and putting our caps on, again with just one hand.  Every sailor learns to carry out certain orders by numbers, counting to themselves during the execution.  In the Royal Navy,  - up, two, three, down - is as well known as Nelson's name.  Now there was a more involved method which had to be mastered.  There was no period allowed in which to tuck away an odd piece of hair which had become trapped between the cap and the ear [for example], and if one failed to return the cap to the head so that it sat properly, the discomfort plus the odd appearance of such ill fitting headgear had to be accepted.  Because of the potential difficulties of the chin-stay, a rating dressed as a seaman stood more of a chance of such a thing happening than did a person wearing a peaked cap where the chin-strap was not used.

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We left the Parade Ground and returned to the Drill Shed now no longer private, but buzzing with PR personnel and television crews. Biff Elliott was on good form [or bad whatever ones view] , and sensing the TV crews, he resorted to the old-fashion Drill Instructor [he was a Chief GI {Gunnery Instructor responsible for Naval Drill}] with a few crude gestures and a couple of everyday swear words added in.  We were lined up in file formation consolidating that Cap Drill we had just been shown on the Parade Ground only this time the Cap Bearers were being put through their paces.  The TV camera man with the sound man were infiltrating our lines busy taking close-ups of Biff giving detailed instruction. The camera man got so close that one of the Bearers felt uncomfortable with the heat produced by the camera light and he not unnaturally showed his displeasure.  Biff was in his element.  "Ignore these peasants and their  square eye.  They are wasting my bloody time and yours.  If they interfere with your concentration tell them to bugger off and if they wont, kick 'em".  Many consider that Biff went too far, and I believe that after the showing of the Nationwide programme [that particular part without sound], he was sent for and told that this sort of behaviour when in the public eye, was not on.  I will readily admit that I felt rather embarrassed for the Editor, Director, whatever of the programme, who was a young and pretty woman trying to do her best.  Biffs actions could have been her undoing, but she took the knock well, and it was treated as Biff intended it to be, with good humour.

We broke for  afternoon tea and during this period we were told that we were going on another thirty three minute Processional march, and that if it was another success like the forenoons march, we would call it a day and secure at tea time.  We 'turned up trumps' again and not only did it well,  but we enjoyed doing it. I found the music very sad, and of course beautifully played by one of the finest military Bands in the world;  it never ceased to bring goose pimples to my flesh.  I left Eastney for the last time at 1600 and spent the evening with my family.

The next day, Sunday the 2nd of September, I arrived in HMS Excellent at 0730 suitably attired to travel to London and laden down with bags and coat hangers carrying Naval uniforms and accessories.  Payment had been arranged for all those who wanted a ten pound casual payment, and final kit arrangements were made for those who had missed previous opportunities.   At 0900, the Bearers plus an additional two young ratings mustered at the Regulating School for a final Portsmouth briefing.  Lieutenant Doyle chaired the informal  meeting and started the session by using the chalkboard to show us how The Queen's Chapel at St James's Palace [just one of many places he had visited during the previous day] would be laid out, and how the Catafalque in Westminster Abbey worked.  Biff followed Bob to show us how he saw our routine on arrival St James's Palace and at Westminster Abbey on the funeral day.  It was really academic because we did not even know how we were going to get to St James's Palace or from where we would depart.  Biffs talk certainly brought home to me that we had many questions still to be answered, and it became increasingly obvious that they could only be answered by those in the know in London.  Finally, I was invited to run over each set piece to say what orders I would be giving on Tuesday evening at The Queen's Chapel; Wednesday from The Queen's Chapel to Westminster Abbey, and from The Abbey to Waterloo Station.

Earlier that Sunday morning I had conducted a quiz with some of the Bearers by setting the scene, then inviting each Bearer in turn to say what the next order would be, then another Bearer to tell me what the reaction to that order would be.  The two additional young sailors who attended the meeting [one a Chef and the other a Seaman] had been detailed to act as Trestle Numbers inside The Queen's Chapel, onto which we would place the Coffin on Tuesday evening.  Their brief was very simple, but as you will read, these two youngsters were to be the cause of much embarrassment for me.  At 1145 we took lunch and at 1415 a convoy of Naval coaches transported the whole group to London.  There were so many military persons involved that every available sleeping billet was utilised, which in turn meant that Groups had to be split-up to accommodate them.  The Gun Carriages Crew and the Marching Escort travelled to the Guards Barracks at Pirbright [many miles from London], and the Abbey Liners with the Coffin Bearers  travelled on the same coach dropping off the Liners at the Cavalry Barracks in Hounslow then continuing on to Chelsea Barracks with our Group.   Our hosts were the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards, and they made us feel most welcome.

In the evening we travelled from the Barracks in a Naval Police vehicle to Westminster Abbey but it was closed so we  carried out a reconnoitre of the Broad Sanctuary and gateway approach to the Abbey.  It was really a pointless fact finding trip but it served its purpose in getting the Group thinking and asking questions. 

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Monday the 3rd September started early for the Royal Navy Procession Contingent and the Royal Marines Band.  The poor Gun Carriage Crew and Bandsmen had left 'D' Line Pirbright  Barracks at 0245 and were due to arrive in Wellington Barracks Birdcage Walk at 0445.  Our Group left Chelsea Barracks at 0414 after a quick do it yourself breakfast, and arrived Wellington Barracks just before the Gun Carriages Crew who had stopped at the Royal Mews Buckingham Palace, to collect the Gun;  the Gun had travelled to London on the back of a Naval low loader. 

It is incredible to think now, but early on this cool but pleasant and dry morning we did not know how we would get to St James's Palace; either by vehicular transport or by marching with the Gun.  I don't think it was ever decided, and when the time came for everybody to take their positions, Biff told us to take up our usual positions alongside the Gun Carriage, and that on arrival at The Queen's Chapel, we would devise a routine to leave the Gun to do our own thing.  When all was ready at 0530, the Garrison Sergeant Major [GSM], a very important Guards Warrant Officer called Dupont, gave the order to quick march.  The Band began to play and we left Wellington Barracks through the West gate.  The idea was to show us the route and the room we would have in which to manoeuvre the Gun.  We crossed Birdcage Walk, marched to the East of the Queen Victoria Monument, entered The Mall and at this point the Band ceased playing as a whole, reducing its output to left foot beats on a few drums only.  At the first turning left off The Mall [Stable Yard Road] the drum beats ceased and we wheeled left through the narrow ornamental iron gates, past Clarence House the home of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, right into Cleveland Row and again right into Marlborough Road.  The group stopped outside The Queen's Chapel and we Bearers were fallen-out and mustered at the rear of the Rear Drag Rope Numbers.  It was decided there and then, that tomorrow Tuesday for the full dress rehearsal we would march at the rear of the Gun from Wellington Barracks to The Queen's Chapel in such a position, that when the Gun Carriages Crew was brought to the halt, we would halt exactly opposite the small door leading into the Chapel.  We would then take our caps off, the Cap Bearers in each column would collect them moving back to their positions on the Limber wheels with caps they had collected.

Click to enlargeThis little picture will help you identify the Limber of a Gun Carriage.  The large number of dots represents sailors who pull the Gun [the Forward Drag Rope Numbers] and the small number, the Rear Drag Rope Numbers, who brake the Gun - the ropes have been left out of the picture.  Thus one can see the direction of travel.  The Limber is the box at the  front  loosely connected  to the Gun, and what appears to be a TV aerial is the Limber pulling handle.  You will observe that each {Gun and Limber} has two wheels.  The Limber carries the shells to be fired so that when the Crew goes into action, the loose connection is disengaged, the Limber is placed some distance behind and away from the Gun and those attending it supply the Gunners with shells.

Then we were to turn left and enter The Chapel for the Coffin.  It was another new routine to learn, and I could sense the concern and anxiety on the faces of the younger members of the team.  Changes in routine so close to the event were undesirable, and I tried to calm my men by telling them just to listen to my orders and all would be well.  I almost enjoyed assuming such a responsibility although I was aware that if I forgot the next order, catastrophe would soon follow.

We re-Grouped and on the GSM's order, stepped-off at the slow march.  We marched down Marlborough Road, left onto The Mall, right into Horse Guards Road, left through Horse Guards Parade and through into Whitehall. On passing through the Arch and through the gates at the Whitehall end, we had very little room for error with the Gun and the approach was critical;  the main Arch/gate was so narrow that the Coffin Bearers [and on the funeral day proper the Pall Bearers] had to march through the side Arches/gates.

At this point of the march we had seen very few people watching the first rehearsal, but as we proceeded further down Whitehall, more and more early morning workers enroute to their place of work stopped on the pavement and almost stood in a silent and sombre manner.  We continued into Parliament Street, on into  St Margaret's Street and then wheeled right, past St Margaret's Church [where Lord Mountbatten was married to his wife Edwina*] and into Parliament Square.  As we approached Broad Sanctuary we could see several large television vehicles parked close up to the North wall of the Abbey with several workmen playing-out cables and erecting platforms.  We were to see a great deal more of these people during the next two days, but the first sight as dawn broke was enough to excite the imagination.  We continued to wheel right around Parliament Square, left into George Street and on into Birdcage Walk finally to re-enter Wellington Barracks by the East gate at approximately 0650.  There were many people on the streets by this time and certain roads had been closed off.  We left Wellington Barracks and returned to Chelsea Barracks for a good hot breakfast.

*Edwina died in 1960 and was buried at sea from the frigate HMS Wakeful off the Isle of Wight. Her coffin was piped onboard as one might expect. However, Lord Mountbatten turned to Nehru and said that it was an honour which I have never before known to be accorded to any woman other than a reigning sovereign.

At 0900 we went to Westminster Abbey for our first rehearsal.  On arrival, there was much activity by large numbers of television workmen, Department of the Environment [DOE] artisans [who had created a false front to the Abbey entrance to house a television camera without the camera giving offence], and many others.  There were camera platforms everywhere - inside and outside the Abbey - and enough twenty two inch colour television screens to supply a medium sized village.  The television screens were sited throughout the Abbey so that persons privileged to have a seat could watch the Procession and parts of the Service within the Abbey hidden from their view.  There were two Groups practicing: the Abbey Liners made up from men of the Royal Navy, the Life Guards and the Royal Air Force Regiment, who collectively, formed a column either side of the route from the pavement iron gates to the Great West Door, the other group being ourselves.  Inside the Abbey, in a corner of the North West Nave was a Coffin, much larger than that we had been used to, and with a size six breadth Union Flag.  The Coffin belonged to the GSM HQ London District, and we were told that it was weighted according to the rules;  just another of the nebulous statements we heard over these days.  We started our training in-situ by informally walking through the Abbey to the Lantern to view the Catafalque.  We had been told previously that it was a very old and rickety  wooden framework, unstable and fraught with danger.  Our informant was absolutely correct!  The Catafalque had fixed rigid wooden slats and no rollers.  It had a wooden peg at the feet-end which stopped the Coffin from being pushed too far, and the whole thing was designed to turn 360 degrees.  The mechanism to lock it into position feet facing  to East or feet to West, was badly worn, and the whole assembly moved several degrees to left and right from its intended lock position.

We returned to the entrance of the Abbey, picked up the Flag draped Coffin and began our first practice, marching to the left of the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, down through the Curtain, the Choir Stalls, to the Lantern and placed the Coffin upon the Catafalque for the first time.  The Catafalque demonstrated all its known shortcomings, and during the placing of the Coffin [which was difficult without rollers] it swayed from side to side in an exaggerated and disturbing manner.  During the march to the Lantern, Bob Doyle had been very concerned about the way the Coffin swayed from side to side, this despite the special step which we had virtually perfected in earlier training, and he considered that the irregular sizing of the back two men [head-men] was a contributory factor, and one which could only be rectified by change.  Leading Radio Operator Foster was singled out for change, and being a person who demonstrably showed his emotions and inner feelings, his reluctance to change temporarily destroyed his morale and his willingness to co-operate.  He was happy in the position in which he had spent five days of dedicated training, and any change now would not only involve his Coffin work, but also his position marching on the Gun. Bob was very accessible, and I discussed the morale vis--vis the swaying of the Coffin with him.  He readily agreed that we should give the Bearer the benefit of doubt and see if the same swaying occurred on a second march.  Throughout the whole training period, each member of the team was encouraged to voice constructive criticism if they considered it in the best interests of our overall performance. I cannot recall which person suggested the check, but all agreed that the head-end of the Coffin was extraordinarily heavy.  A screwdriver was obtained and the lid removed;  the cause of the swaying was immediately obvious.  The Coffin was weighted with iron ingots most of which had left their appointed places and had ended up at the head-end, and poor Foster and his opposite Bearer  had actually staggered down the aisle shouldering an enormous burden.  The ingots were re-positioned and secured, the lid secured and a second more successful march to the Catafalque was completed.  We did one more journey, took the Coffin back to where we had found it, folded and placed the Union Flag on top, fell-in and at the slow, I marched the Bearers out of the Great West Door into the cobbled courtyard.  At the Great West Door there are three steps of uniform height [give or take an inch or two] but with different widths, and we practiced going up and down them to achieve synchrony of step before and after ascending or descending.  It was a simple evolution for me but more difficult for the Bearers with a heavy Coffin, and one we did not perfect because our programme time expired.

Above, I referred to the Union Flag as being a 'size 6 breadth'.  This merely indicates the physical size of the Flag ranging from a small one as flown from the jackstaff of a Submarine in harbour or at a buoy, to a huge Flag as worn on the Buckingham Palace flag pole.

The Coffin at any funeral is the centre piece to which all eyes focus.  The way it is moved dictates the tone of the funeral. When that movement is closely monitored by television and in real-time shown to the world, it is doubly important that it is dignified.  The three steps at Westminster Abbey are enough to momentarily pierce the shield of dignity.  Knowing that, I am in awe of the Guardsmen who carried Sir Winston Churchill's Coffin up the many steps into St Paul's Cathedral and to the Guardsmen [and other soldiers] who have successfully negotiated the very steep steps leading to St George's Chapel at Windsor, particularly at the funerals of King George VI, the Duke of Windsor, and recently, Princess Margaret.

We returned to the Lantern where a retired Major, now an Abbey official, showed us to our seating area which we would use during the service on Wednesday.  We completed the days training in the Abbey by slow marching to our seats, and then, on cue from the Major standing in an adjacent aisle, returning to the Catafalque.

The next part of our training was to be in stark contrast to all that had gone before, and to say the very least, dramatically exciting if not foolhardy!

On the day proper, the final act was to be on platform 11 at Waterloo Station.  The Coffin, to be conveyed by a specially converted Land Rover belonging to the Life Guards, was to leave the Abbey, and travel across Westminster Bridge to Waterloo.  We were to put the Coffin onto the Land Rover after the Service, and then we were to travel at full speed across Lambeth Bridge to arrive Waterloo Station before the Land Rover, to be ready to take the Coffin off and place it onto the Special Train for Romsey in Hampshire.  Parked on the corner of  Great Smith Street and Broad Sanctuary [out of sight of the Abbey] were two Royal Navy twelve-seater utilecons to be driven by sailors [Regulators in Navy speak, Policemen in civilian speak] from the Naval  Provost Marshal London HQ's.  With them were two Metropolitan Police motorcyclists who would act as escorts and out-riders.  On leaving the Abbey we assumed  that we had placed the Coffin onto the Land Rover, and began the slow march in the direction of Deans Yard,  breaking into the quick march when opposite the yard entrance.  On reaching the corner of Great Smith Street we broke off and ran [literally]  to the waiting vehicles.  As soon as we were all onboard [but not necessarily with the doors shut], the two motorcyclists and the two utilecons proceeded down Great Smith Street as though their drivers were possessed with the devil.  The traffic was at its usual peak -chaotic - bumper to bumper at five to ten miles per hour. We proceeded at forty five miles per hour  first on our side of the road then on the other side, wrong way around keep left bollards, cutting across roundabout traffic flow, forcing traffic to our right to brake and take avoiding action.   There was utter chaos and the drivers who were flagged down by the skilful motorcyclists , were obviously irate and blew their horns in retaliation.  We crossed Great Porter Street against the lights, on into Marsham Street, right into Horseferry Road on two wheels, then negotiated the two roundabouts either end of Lambeth Bridge with blind madness as our guide.  I travelled in the front of the leading vehicle, and whilst I will  give credit to our driver for his driving skill, I did travel down Lambeth Palace Road with doubt in my mind that we would arrive safely at our destination.  The last half mile or so was just as hair-raising but a little safer, because as we approached the railway station, more and more Policemen started to control traffic and pedestrians.  By the time we turned into the Station the British Transport Police had cordoned-off the access which led straight onto the wide roadway adjacent to platform 11.  It was almost with relief that I stepped down onto the platform, but I cannot deny experiencing a boyish enjoyment at our Keystone Cops type trip.

Much of the entrance to the platform had been painted with dark red and black colours, and propped up alongside a large ubiquitous roof support pillar was a newly made wooden ramp, which had been painted with non-slip grey coloured paint on all visible projections.  The Special Train was not in the Station and the track alongside the platform was empty.  From our practice time in Portsmouth Station we had acquired the necessary knowledge for taking the Coffin up the ramp and onto the train, and all we required to know about this Station was where to stand to await the arrival of the Land Rover, where to stand on leaving the train before it left for Romsey, and the construction of the railway carriage Catafalque which would affect our angles and turns on entering and leaving.    The other outstanding procedure was in the use of the Land Rover and its peculiarity, but that was scheduled for later in the day. The position of the Land Rover when stopped on the platform was critical to our relative starting position on the platform because we had to wheel around to get the Coffin, and then turn with the Coffin so that we were directly in line with the ramp.  It would therefore be necessary for our group to determine where the Land Rover should stop, and having done so, to decide where we would stand.  When all was finalised and I had computed an additional half dozen orders, we boarded our vehicles and this time we drove to Chelsea Barracks for lunch obeying every traffic sign, speed limit and convention.


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The page on the right  above, is not a copy of page 11 in my programme! This page is copied from an unused programme. 
 On page 11 of my copy, each member of the Bearer Party plus the two Cap Bearers signed their names alongside their position
of carrying or marching.  I have published an original printers page in lieu to protect their signatures from possible crib.

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After lunch in Chelsea Barracks I returned to my room which overlooked the Parade Ground.  I watched the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards doing their Ceremonial Drill, preparing to Mount The Guard at St James's Palace and for Street Lining in The Mall on the day of the funeral.  We too did further training on the Parade Ground from 1400 until 1520 when two covered Land Rovers from the Life Guards Depot arrived and parked in an underpass away from as many watching eyes as possible.  The leading Land Rover had a canvas cover which was stretched over a portable tubular frame, and when the cover and frame were removed, the special modification was revealed.  Sitting in the bottom of the vehicle was a large box type construction, which tapered down on four sides from a top built to take a Coffin [ a mobile Catafalque] to a much broader base, rather like a gymnasts vaulting horse.  The box was covered in a baize material on all surfaces, and the Coffin platform had wooden stops to the feet-end and along both sides , with several rigid small brass rods screwed to the top along the full length of the platform.   The top of the construction was in line with our necks which proved to be an ideal height commensurate with the height of the Coffin from the deck level when in the lift position, and which therefore should have assisted us in the launching of the Coffin. In the second Land Rover there was a Coffin [and a Union Flag] constructed to dimensions comparable to the one we had used in Westminster  Abbey.  It is well they brought this Coffin!

Whilst in Portsmouth, I had been told that a Coffin  would be sent to our London Barracks [not known at that time] for us to practice with between sessions at the Abbey.  That promised Coffin was subsequently dispatched to London, but up to the day of the funeral, when I ceased to make enquiries, it was never found.

We took the Coffin out of the covered Land Rover, placed upon it the Union Flag, and then slow marched to the modified Land Rover.  The approach was exactly the same as to any platform [Catafalque]  and the orders were stereotyped, but this time we experienced the greatest of difficulty in putting the Coffin onto the platform and the task became a farce with all available personnel in the area giving us a hand to push.  The problem was that  the brass runners were dry and rigid, and formed a friction  barrier to the bare wood of the coffin bottom which could only be overcome by sliding the coffin on with the feet-end five degrees up.  I expressed an immediate and spontaneous dissatisfaction with the workings of the system and after this lift we returned the Coffin to the back of the covered vehicle, assisted with the replacing of the portable frame and canvas cover, and then bade farewell to the Corporal driver who promised to tell Captain York, Life Guards, of our dislike.

At 1600 we left for St James's Palace and The Queen's Chapel, parking our official vehicle in the Palace forecourt outside the  Lord Chamberlain's Office.  We crossed Marlborough Road  in marching formation and entered The Chapel by the main door being welcomed as we did by the members of the Church.  Inside we met The Lord Chamberlain, The Lord Maclean with Sir Eric Penn the controller of The Lord Chamberlain's Office, and the official in charge of the funeral organization.  Also in The Chapel we met Mr Michael Keynon, the Royal undertaker, who was a very kind and ordinary sort of man, busy securing the Union Flag to yet another practice Coffin, ready there sitting on two trestles.  He briefed us on what would be on top of the Coffin Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, and in passing, regretted that he could not tell us the weight of the Coffin, but that the one we had seen arriving at Eastleigh Airport some days before, was the actual burial Coffin.  From this we deduced that if the Royal Air Force , who carried that Coffin at Eastleigh could cope and be dignified [as they were], it should be no problem to the Royal Navy.

One reason for being at The Queen's Chapel at that hour was to carry out a reconnoitre and also to devise a system for the Trestle Numbers - the two young ratings who had attended our last Portsmouth briefing in the Regulating School.  On entering The Chapel, one stepped down a shallow step onto a thick coconut-mat before walking on the floor, thereby in effect stepping down two levels.  The first thing we asked of the Chapel staff was that the mat must be removed to minimise the risk of  trip-ups and this they did willingly, making fun and speculating as to the amount of dirt they would find under the mat.  Lord Maclean and Sir Eric Penn left after checking details and asking a new Churchman, newly arrived from Winchester, if he was happy with the procedure;  this man was the Sub Dean of Her Majesty's Chapels' Royal, The Reverend Canon Anthony Caesar.  We gathered around the Coffin and discussed how we would play the putting in and taking out of the trestles, plus, with the new Sub Dean, the format for the forthcoming Services.  On the next day, Tuesday, the Coffin was to arrive in London from Romsey by Hearse, and we would take it from the Hearse into The Chapel where it would be placed on two trestles, and on completion, Prayers would be said.  Our two Trestle Numbers were given a simple brief, namely, that when the Coffin was brought in, we would halt in the position at which the Coffin would rest, and they would put their respective trestles through the Bearers  from left to right, between first and second and third and fourth Bearers.  The Trestle Numbers would then reach through the legs of the Bearers and push down the steadying catches, completing their task by pressing down  on their side, and then returning to their position to the left of the left front pew. When the trestles were in position, I would order the Bearers to turn inwards, to lower the Coffin, and then bow during the short Service to be conducted by the Bishop of London.  The reverse procedure was just as simple for the Wednesday morning.  On entering The Chapel we would halt alongside the Coffin, turn inwards, launch, lift and turn towards the feet-end.  Once facing the Altar the Trestle Numbers would remove the trestles by pulling them through from the left hand side, collapsing them, and then carrying them back to their waiting position.  The Bearers would then turn through 180 degrees to face The Chapel door for the march to the Gun Carriage.

Once again we had finalised a procedure and I added more and more orders to my repertoire.

Finally, on leaving The Chapel, we decided where we would stand to await the arrival of the Hearse on the following evening, and satisfied, we left The Palace for Chelsea Barracks and an early night.  I telephoned my wife Beryl before I retired, told her about our training, and whilst not in so many words, asked her for her prayers and best wishes

    I have mentioned The Queen's Chapel at St James's Palace often, and now, as a break from my book, I thought it appropriate to tell you to which Queen if refers. It doesn't refer to our own Queen Elizabeth the Second as so many believe, but to Catherine  of  Braganza, a Portuguese Princess, The Queen Consort of King Charles II.  She arrived in England at Portsmouth, and her point of disembarkation is recorded there for all posterity.  She and King Charles II were married just a few marching paces away from this landing spot, in The Garrison Church.  This Church is well worth a visit not just for its Royal connection but because it was bombed during the Second World War, and the fire damage to pews that were not totally destroyed can still be see.  It is probably unique in that it has a stained glass window showing German bombers [one assumes about to bomb Portsmouth and specifically this Church] being illuminated by anti aircraft artillery battery search lights.

The second rehearsal for the Navy, which was the first rehearsal of the Procession proper and called, by written order, the dress rehearsal, took place on Tuesday 4th September.  It did not require any one of us to actually wear our best Ceremonial uniforms and medals, but it was to be an exact and timed rehearsal of what was required the next day.

I awoke at 0300 and was ready to travel to Wellington Barracks at 0330.  We arrived at 0355 at the West gate of Wellington Barracks to an unfamiliar sight, accompanied by great numbers of Military Police personnel who were in the process of forming a security barrier.  Over the past twenty four hours, the Army had erected huge tents which ran the full length of the Parade Ground [on the opposite side to the perimeter railings] from the Western gate area to The Guards Chapel.  They enclosed an enormous area under canvas which had been set aside as a changing room for the many hundreds taking part in the Procession, and probably also as shelter against inclement weather.  The Parade Ground had been sectioned off with imaginary lines and signs were posted at ground level in a symmetrical pattern, all painted white with black lettering, inviting participating units to form three Groups, each one running parallel with the line of tents in an East/West direction, Group One being nearest to Birdcage Walk.  Order Number 6212Q issued by HQ London District, showed eighteen separate Groups ranging from French, American, Indian, Gurkha Units to the more famous and resplendent Guards Regiments.  It also included Bands of the Life Guards, Household Cavalry, Coldstream Guards, Royal Air Force and Royal Marines, any one of which creates a sound which excites, stimulates goose pimples on the flesh, and makes one proud to be British.  The Gun Carriages Crew belonged to Group Three, the last to leave, suitably led by the Massed Bands of The Royal Marines.  Nothing I add here will strengthen a commonly held view that The Royals [a colloquialism for the Marines] are the very best - I certainly subscribe to that thinking - and they excelled themselves over this period.  Their music shattered the still air of London and sounded its sad tune with exemplary precision yet with gentleness, heralding to those waiting along the route that they were the vanguard of the Gun Carriage.

It took the best part of an hour for all Groups to form-up, and when the whole Procession was ready, Garrison Sergeant Major Dupont stepped Group One off at the quick, led by the Royal Air Force Band.  When the music from this Band sounded more distant, Group Two moved away, and then Group Three.  The route for all Groups was the same except that Group Three only, would go to St James's Palace and into the Broad Sanctuary at Westminster Abbey.  We followed the route we had marched over twenty four hours earlier only this time the Bearers marched at the rear of the Gun Carriage, right hand Bearers  in the front rank, left hand Bearers in the rear  rank, with me on the extreme middle left, and Bob in a corresponding position on the right.  Groups One and Two marched up The Mall, past the turn into Clarence House  [at which Group Three wheeled left], past the bottom of Marlborough Road and then halted when the rear of the Group Two was clear to the North East of this last road, more or less in line with Marlborough House away to their left.  Once again The Royal Marines Band stopped their music as we marched into St James's Palace complex as they had done the day before.  We wheeled to the right out of Cleveland Road into Marlborough Road, and at the Command of Captain Bethell Royal Navy, we halted outside The Queen's Chapel, the Bearers just to the left of The Chapel door.  As soon as we had stopped, I gave the order for off caps, and once executed,  the Cap Bearers collected the caps and moved off to take their positions opposite the Limber wheels.  I then turned the Bearers left to face The Chapel and gave the order to slow march.  We had only travelled two or three paces when a Guards Officer [a Processional Marshal]  informed me that tomorrow, Wednesday, I was to proceed into The Chapel on his cue, which would coincide with The Royal Prince's of The Blood  and The Mountbatten family males, taking their positions first. They  were to enter The Chapel shortly after our arrival  in Marlborough Road for private family Prayers.

We continued into The Chapel led by the Sub Dean chanting Prayers, and halted either side of the Coffin.  The Coffin was launched and lifted, the Bearers turned to face the feet-end and the Altar, and as planned, the trestles were taken away.  I turned the Bearers through 180 degrees and when the manoeuvre was finished, positioned myself at the front of the Coffin, nodded to the Sub Dean to indicate our readiness, and we moved off towards The Chapel door again to the chanting of Prayers. The single shallow Chapel step [ without the coconut-mat] was followed by a much deeper step down from the pavement, which passed immediately in front of The Chapel door, onto the pavement and roadway.   I could hear Tim telling me to come back and to shorten my step as we wheeled left to line-up with the Gun Carriage.  Bob and I had agreed during training that on the approach to any Coffin platform whatever its form or construction, he would go to the left and I would go to the right.  The Rear Drag Rope Numbers had opened up their ranks by four columns taking six side paces to the left and four columns six side paces to the right to allow  the Bearers access to the Gun Carriage.  In addition they had turned  inwards to face each other and the Front Drag Rope Numbers has turned about [so that all were facing the coffin]. Caps had been removed  and their heads bowed.  Slowly we approached the Gun Carriage, then gently pushed until the Coffin  was in position.  The Gun Carriage tipped very slightly  as it took the weight, but it was only noticeable to those close to it.  Once in  position, the Coffin was secured by a rear [head-end] wooden locking bar which was placed in position with a vertical downwards movement to guide two dowel pins into two holes on the extension piece added in Portsmouth.    This was Bobs job and the bar was to have been left on the Carriages top beneath the Coffin platform on the left hand side.  My first reaction on seeing the bar on my side was to attempt to place it in position by myself with my right hand, but being a left-hander this could have been a cumbersome task.  As I picked the bar up and moved it towards its rest position, Bobs hand came across and caught the bar, and together in a calm and dignified manner, we lowered it into its position.  We both liked this procedure and we were to use it on Wednesday:  the position of the waiting bar no longer mattered.

Once the Coffin locking bar had been placed, the Gun Carriages Crew took over and four young sailors, two from the Front Drag Rope Numbers and two from the Rear, approached the four corners of the Coffin, pulled the Flag down straight, then on each corner of the Flag place a small circular brass weight. Note: these are the weights to which I refer in the post script below - what happened to them ? 

  During this period the Bearers has turned outwards to face Pall Mall, then at the slow march they had past back through the twelve pace opening between the Rear Drag Rope Numbers, both columns of Bearers wheeling left and right respectively around the blocks of four columns to face The Mall.  When they got to their positions alongside the Gun Carriage they marked time until Bob and I, who were the back men in each column, had reached the Gun wheels, when I ordered the Bearers to halt.  Without further orders the Cap Bearers then marched down the inside of the column of Coffin Bearers, gave each man his cap, and finally with just their own caps left, turned into position in front of Bob and myself.

When all was still and silent, Commander Tricky gave the preparatory order "Gun Carriages Crew........." to which all bowed heads were raised....."on caps".  In unison we all replaced our headgear.   The Rear Drag Rope Numbers  regrouped into one unit with impressive, almost unbelievable military precision, their heels smashing into each other which made noises akin to slow machine gun bursts.  The Front Drag Rope Numbers were turned about, and we were ready to proceed, awaiting the order "Funeral Procession will advance: by the Right, slow march" given by GSM Dupont.

The Royal Marines  Band had played the same repertoire on every practice/rehearsal so the music was now very familiar and tune changes predictable. This was important to know because each tune could bring a beat change, so every man had to be alert throughout the full thirty eight minute march, to be ready to slow or quicken his step.

The routine was a repeat of Monday morning as far as Parliament Square, but on this day we left the Square and entered the Broad Sanctuary destined for Westminster Abbey.  The Officer Commanding the Gun Carriage, Captain Bethell, left his position at the head of the Front Drag Rope Numbers shortly after entering the wider section of the Sanctuary, halted, turned left to face the still marching Guns Crew, and awaited the moment when the back of the Gun was directly in line with the right hand gate post of the gates leading to the Great West door.  At the exact moment, Captain Bethell gave the order to halt, and the Gun Carriages Crew with the Bearers  halted in the desired place facing Deans Yard.

I counted three slowly to myself then ordered the Bearers to about turn and when executed, to off caps.  The Procession Marshals had purposely left a large gap between the rear of the Gun Carriages Crew and the next group, the Mountbatten family male mourners, so that we could have enough room to form-up for our last function with the Gun.  I stepped the Bearers off at the slow march, and on doing so, the second man in each column, the Cap Bearers,  took one full side step, and as each Coffin Bearer past him, he took their caps.  We marched up through the outer boundary of the gap until we reached the position where the mourners would be tomorrow, and then each column wheeled left and right respectively to the centre followed soon after by a final wheel left and right, to finish up in a position in the centre of the gap facing the Rear Drag Rope Numbers.  As we halted, the Rear Crew repeated their impressive manoeuvre of opening their ranks to allow us access to the Coffin;  it was performed magnificently.  Four sailors approached the Coffin, their steps calculated and together they each took off the little [but heavy] round brass weights from the four corners of the Union Flag then returned to their positions. My next order was to move the Bearers towards the Gun Carriage, and I sensed the many eyes of the Rear Crew watching us as we passed through their ranks.  We halted, me to the right, went through our routine, and with the Coffin on the Bearers shoulders and them facing the Gun Carriage, we stood still while the whole Gun Carriages Crew were marched clear.

As soon as they were clear and before they were halted, I gave the order to turned 90 degrees to the left so that the Coffin faced The Great West Door.  I was now at the back of the Coffin and Bob to the right at the front. To my right I heard Captain Bethell turn the whole of the Gun Carriages Crew about, followed by an off caps order, the execution of which culminated in the bowing of their heads.  Upon hearing the off caps order, I commenced my approach which would put me at the front of the Coffin, paused momentarily when in that position,  before giving the order which would step us off on our long march to the Catafalque many yards away in the Lantern.

The Procession rehearsal was now over, and what we had just done was to be repeated tomorrow with some additional personnel, best Ceremonial uniforms and medals, plus of course, many spectators.

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In common with many, I was looking forward to the actual Procession and held no fears about its success; except that my marching position on the Gun, had, when turning into the narrow part of Broad Sanctuary, embarrassed Commander Tricky and we had more or less collided, he virtually running me over!  Clearly it was a point to watch for tomorrow.

In front of us now was an entry into the Abbey  which was to be uneventful and incomparable with what would happen at this stage in the hours ahead.  We moved across the coble stones, up the three steps negotiated with ease and in step with one another, and into the Abbey which was fully lit but virtually empty.  The Abbey had been closed to the public for some time now and much work had been done in preparation.  Because this was the final rehearsal, we were doing things as though for real and therefore, we did not permit ourselves even the smallest of glances away from our line of advance.  Nevertheless, it was easy to see that the traditional wide walkway one sees on a normal visit to the Abbey had been reduced to a narrow access, and lots of simple wooden chair's had been placed in rows running down both sides of the access from East of The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior to the Choir Screen, each row facing inwards in a North/South aspect.  I passed down the South side of Sir Winston Churchill's Memorial Stone and The Unknown Warrior's Tomb, as always surrounded by its oblong wreath of small red poppies, and on through the Choir Stalls, now silent and peaceful.  Near the Catafalque I moved to my right with a small incline of step, halted and then halted the Bearers.  The Coffin was placed and this time with a little less fuss and straining, although the movement of the Catafalque was clearly seen.  The draped Flag was seen to be a problem on this platform because it was considered that it might catch on some obscure proud nail or screw head, so there and then I improvised a method which could avoid this happening, at least to my side of the Flag.  As was our routine anyway, Bob and I had approached the Coffin before launch to move the Flag out of harms way.  At my order "Launch" I began to slowly move to my right, by side stepping, and that way I followed the line of the Coffin as it was pushed onto the Catafalque;  I was able to hold the Flag away from any potential hazard, and also, I could actually see the wooden peg at the feet-end and knew whether the Coffin was put on correctly or not.  By following down to my right I was now in an excellent position to check the Flag and Catafalque were square.  The checking of the latter seemed unimportant to me and difficult to do from my position, but the Flag had to be correct for very obvious reasons.  I continued to move to my right until I was standing square-on to the feet-end with my back to the Altar.  Once there, I reached up with my right hand and pulled the Flag down from off the top of the Coffin, squared it off, leaned out to my right to look down the left hand side, and then slowly returned to my position at the right hand side of the head of the Coffin, looking as I marched, along my side, and on arrival in position, at the Flag on the head-end.  When I was satisfied that all was well, I turned the Bearers outwards to face the imaginary mourners, and moving at the slow, did a series of tight right, left, right wheels to our seating area.

We had been allocated two rows of pews immediately behind members of the press, and to the right and rear of the Mountbatten family, who would be seated on the left hand side of the Coffin.  From my seat at the aisle end of the front Bearer pew, I was to have a good view of the Service, but for those less fortunate, in front of us, about twelve foot high was a television monitor screen.

The Service was scheduled to last for thirty minutes, so once sat down tomorrow, we would have a welcomed break from the weight of the Coffin, and of course from the watching world.  Today however, our break was to be a short one, and we were soon summoned back to the Catafalque to continue with the rehearsal.

Whilst we were seated the Catafalque had been turned through 180 degrees which meant that our formation on leaving the pews would have to be altered so that the head-men, who had led into the pews, again led us [but this time with Bob and I in the front] back to the Coffin.  When we stood up, Bob and I  stepped into  the aisle towards the organ, and the next man in each pew stepped back in the aisle towards the North wall.  The second and subsequent Bearer from each pew followed on so that a column was formed from back to front.

The Coffin was lifted and taken to The Great West door again passing to the South of the Sacred National Tomb.  Outside the Abbey the Gun Carriage had been taken away [to the Royal Mews Buckingham Palace] and in its place was the Life Guards modified Land Rover escorted by several Fox armoured cars, also belonging to  Life Guards.  On leaving the Abbey, we marched into  Broad Sanctuary towards the Royal Marines Guard of Honour, and then wheeled right for the approach to the Land Rover.  Lord Mountbatten would have been proud to see these three Groups working so closely together, because it was with Royal Marines, the Lifeguards  and the Royal Navy that he was militarily directly associated.  On  our approach to the Land Rover, I was preoccupied with trying to see if the box platform had been modified in any visible way, and whether the Corporal driver, the same as at Chelsea Barracks, had told his Captain as requested about our dislike of the rigid bars.  Regrettably, although Captain York had knowledge of the less than ideal features of his workshop creation, nothing had be done, and I knew that we would have the same problems as we had had the afternoon before. We placed the Coffin with the greatest of difficulty and in the process, two more problems came to light.  Captain York, seated as the front near side passenger with his Corporal driver alongside him, had to sit facing their fronts throughout, and from my position standing on the ground, or for that matter from Bobs, it was impossible to reach the Coffin to square the Flag off, once in position.  Thus, there was no provision made to check the Flag, or, and much worse, to stop the Flag from blowing up with the wind when the vehicle was underway. The other problem, which directly affected me personally was the exhaust of the vehicle.  The exhaust pipe stuck out to the rear offside just where I always stood on the right, and apart from the fumes going straight up my nose, the powerful exhaust pressure caused my trousers to flap.  I was later to take this and other points up with Bob so that at his level, he could get Captain York to have a re-think on his system.  The answer we got back about the exhaust system, was that the engine had to be left running just in case it would not restart;  on reflection a very reasonable precaution and prudent measure against potential disaster.  The other problems were rectified later.

We repeated our slow to quick march heading for Great Smith Street and the two Naval utilecons parked just around the corner, ready with the two Metropolitan Police motorcyclists. This journey to Waterloo Station was no less dangerous, exciting, skilful and as irresponsible as Mondays journey, and of course, over the same route. There was however, a marked difference from the Southern end of Westminster Bridge to Waterloo because the roads were closed to traffic and there were many more Policemen to smooth our way.  Our arrival was as planned, and we had ample time to leave our vehicles and for the vehicles to be driven away to the South end of the platform.  We were in our waiting position before the first of the Police motorcyclists  escorting the Land Rover group turned into the Station.  This group  consisted of several outriders, armoured cars, the Land Rover and more armoured cars in the rear.

Behind us was the same empty platform and track as we had seen yesterday, and during our short wait, I could not help wondering what we would do with the Coffin.  The Police escort and the leading armoured cars past our waiting position, and as the Land Rover was about to stop up to our left, the rear armoured cars increased their speed and followed up behind the other cars.  Getting the Coffin off was marginally easier than putting it on, but still difficult, and the Bearers at the feet-end had to pull harder on the head handles than was desirable.  As we took the full weight of the Coffin the Land Rover pulled away and moved towards the road leading out of the Station.  We turned 90 degrees to the left and marched to the edge of platform eleven watched by the early morning passengers on a train leaving the station from platform ten.  When a safe distance from the edge I halted the Bearers and the exercise was completed.  To avoid unnecessary strain we returned immediately to the area of lift to await the return of the Land Rover.  We had to wait nearly five minutes before it reversed back, and to help the Bearers, Biff and I offered our shoulders to back and front respectively.  We returned the Coffin to the Land Rover and this time there were many Senior Officers, at Waterloo to observe the final rehearsal, who witnessed our struggle.  Change was promised but not in the form of a re-styled Coffin platform, and  Life Guards  were left to come up with a solution.  The Bearers returned to Chelsea Barracks for breakfast; it was 0730.

Between 0800 and 0900 we were treated to a marching display by the Scots Guards although with a much reduced Band.  At 0900 the Bearers were inspected wearing their best Ceremonial uniforms.  Their blue jean collars had been heavily pinned with safety pins to stop the Coffin movement on their shoulders from pulling the collar out of the suit.  This was a precaution taken for the new style uniform where the collar was attached by Velcro strips only, but repeated for tie-tape collars [old uniform] in case the wind was blowing.  Each man had turned out exactly as one would expect these honoured men to do - immaculately.  They were conscious that they were the chosen few and that they carried the responsibility of making sure that the affection the British people regularly show for their Navy was justified and strengthened.  They knew that the nation loved Lord Louis and that human nature would automatically make them love, however temporarily, anyone concerned with laying him to rest.  This was the time to put right the smallest of detail and to act upon criticism given to ensure perfection.  The Bearers were dismissed to change back to their rehearsal uniforms, and at 1000 we left to re-visit Waterloo Station.  This time there was a train - the Special Train - and a new Land Rover system.  The Life Guards had arrived with two Land Rovers, one covered and one with the Coffin platform.  Sitting in the back of the modified Land Rover, facing the front of the vehicle, were two soldiers each sitting either side of the Coffin platform roughly in the middle.  In the covered vehicle was the Coffin and on our first lift it was immediately obvious that the two extra soldiers were a panacea to all our problems.  They pulled the Coffin along with the Coffin handles;  they squared the Flag off when in position, and they were to hold the Flag down to stop the wind from playing with it. We nodded our acceptance to Captain York who was demonstrably pleased that the Navy were now happy!

The vehicle reversed some distance down the platform towards the ticket barrier end and then came forward as though it had just arrived in the Station.  We advanced and then took the Coffin to the waiting train.  Fleet Chief Petty Officer Henry Cooper was there checking on our procedure inside the Special Carriage, which, as was the ramp, was exactly the same as we had rehearsed in the Portsmouth Station although onto a proper Coffin platform instead of trestles.  On leaving the carriage we marched down the ramp, across the platform to our original waiting position, halted then turned about so that I stood at the back.  Captain Bethell had just had news from Romsey that The Lord Chamberlain did not like a similar evolution carried out by the Romsey Bearers, and had favoured an alternative.  This new routine demanded that, as the group came down the ramp each column would turn 90 degrees outwards to left and right, following the line of the train, stop and then turn to face the train, ending up with a single line of ten men.  Bob suggested that it might be better if we compromised to get out of the way of the rail staff who were to remove the ramp prior to departure, by wheeling round to our left and stopping alongside a ranch-style white wooden fence barrier.  We tried this method, turning left to face the train after halting, and it met with the approval of Captain Bethell and other Senior Officers.  With the Coffin safely back in the Land Rover we departed for Westminster Abbey.

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By 1100 on a beautiful sunny late summers day the crowd of sightseers had gathered around the railings surrounding the North and West areas of the Abbey.  As we arrived, the Abbey Liners were rehearsing their march from Deans Yard to the Great West door  with an Irish Guards Warrant Officer giving all the orders supported by a Petty Officer and an Air Force Regiment Corporal.  The television platforms were now completed, cameras had been put into position and were being moved through their given arcs of coverage for testing purposes.  Inside the Abbey there were many people, mostly dressed in civilian clothing who were gathered in small groups discussing their duties.  I recognised many of them to be Senior Officers and I was delighted to meet my next door neighbour, Commander Tony Roberts, and my old boss and namesake, Commander John Dykes, both of whom were in the Abbey as Ushers.

The Royal Marines Fanfare/Buglers [who were also accommodated in Chelsea Barracks] were in their positions on the organ loft with the Choir, whose pews below would be used to seat the worlds Royalty, Heads of State, and leading Politicians.

At approximately 1120 The Lord Chamberlain, Lord Maclean, asked for silence and everybody's attention, and beckoned all to come closer to him standing in the centre aisle halfway between the Choir Screen and the Great West door.  He formally introduced Sir Eric Penn who would take us through the Abbey Ceremony assisted by the Sacrist, the Reverend Roger Job.  On completion of these formalities, the group dispersed and re-formed into Ushers, the Abbey Procession Party, and the Bearers - at this stage not required for Procession Party rehearsal.

The Bearers gathered in the North West Corner of the Nave where the practice Coffin we had used yesterday still lay, and from its resting position on the floor we manhandled it without Ceremony onto the Bearers shoulders.  From here we slow marched the short distance to the Great West door, down the steps into the forecourt, through the ranks of the airmen forming part of the Lining Party, and stopped inside the railing just outside the window of the Abbey book shop.  We placed the Coffin on the ground and awaited our next function, little knowing what effect it would have upon me and upon some of the other Bearers also.  Some fifteen minutes passed before we were told to prepare ourselves for the Abbey rehearsal.  We took the Coffin outside the iron gates into Broad Sanctuary, wheeled through 180 degrees and then halted facing the Great West door just outside the gates.  In front of us in the Abbey, we could see the last two [stand-in] Pall Bearers waiting at the top of the third step and in front of them, the rest of the Procession stretching away to the East.  On cue from an Abbey Marshal I gave the order to slow march.  When I got to the bottom of the first step which is set some distance from the other two steps,  the Procession stepped off at the slow but at a different step and pace to that of our group.  At all costs I had to ignore the urge to get into step with them, which had I  done so,   would have been complicated for the Bearers and embarrassing for me marching on my own.

I had just made safe ground on the Abbey floor after having climbed the top step, when the Royal Marines sounded their Fanfare which was called "Supreme Command".  It was beautiful, awesome and it caught me off guard completely to such an extent that I could not control my emotions and my eyes filled with tears blurring my vision.  The sound of the silver trumpets echoed through the Nave, proud, each note perfect, loud and majestic, signalling to all who could hear that one of Britain's most famous and most honourable sons was about to be brought into one of Britain's most important and perhaps best known Houses of God.  Towards the end of the Fanfare the organ joined in at full throttle adding depth of note which seemed to come at me from all directions further complicating my emotions.  I knew then, that out of all our responsibilities to come tomorrow, for me this was the time I should be prepared for and have my guard ready waiting, because the tear I had shed today went unseen, but tomorrow: well, that would be different!

Members of the Procession took their respective places as we continued down towards the Catafalque, and on our arrival we carried out our duty in the normal manner, moving to our seats on completion.  During the march, done for the first time with the organ playing and the Choir singing, we had lost the sound of our step which helped us all to keep the rhythm going.  Also, all my orders to date had been given using the minimum amount of voice-power  just enough for the  most distant Bearer to hear me.  It comes difficult to a person brought up to be quiet in a place of Worship, to have to shout so that ones voice can be heard over the sound of the organ, especially when tomorrow, Her Majesty The Queen, who would be sitting behind me, would hear if I shouted too loud.  On the other hand, if my voice couldn't be heard by the Bearer Party collectively, our procedure would look and be disjointed and very unprofessional.  The compromise would be difficult and I had to assume that the organ and the Choir  would play/sing using the same gusto as they were using today.  The problem of not being able to hear the Bearers steps behind me remained in the hands of Chief Radio Supervisor Timmington, who from our early days in Portsmouth whilst marching as a feet-end  Bearer, stopped my racing ahead or from getting a bang in the back of the head.  The Sacrist ran through the Service getting the Organist to play and the Choir to sing the first verse of hymns and anthems, and occasionally himself , saying the first line of prayers to be said by Church Leaders tomorrow.  The Last Post and Reveille were sounded by  the Royal Marines with the same expertise they had used for the Fanfare.  Westminster Abbey is a dynamic echo chamber, and the Last Post in particular with its long sounded trumpet notes, swirled around our heads at the top of the Abbey making the already poignant and sad tune that much more relevant and tragically very fitting to Lord Louis - a truly fallen warrior.

As planned, and on cue from an adjacent aisle, the now retired Major gave us the signal to stand up, form, and proceed, and as we did so, we witnessed two Vergers turn the Coffin through 180 degrees.  The rest of the rehearsal was straight forward except that we were only to proceed on The Lord Chamberlain's say-so, which incidentally, was the last instruction I had to learn.  Lord Maclean would position himself to my right on the West end of the front most Easterly pew, waiting for the Insignia Bearers to pass, at which time he would direct the Pall Bearers out into the main aisle.  When the Admirals, Generals and the Marshal of the Royal Air Force were in Procession I could step-off to be followed by the Mountbatten family and the Royal family.  We did so as directed but it really was a shambles, and we did not get into step for some distance.  The problem was that I was facing away from the Bearers at the front of the Coffin and none behind could hear my order for the step-off [except for the feet-men] above the sound of the organ and the Choir.  Luckily all in the Abbey were concentrating on getting their own thing right, and therefore our shambles was known only to the Bearers themselves and to me later on when we secured back in the corner of the Nave. The ever resourceful Timmington, willing to take further responsibility suggested that when he sensed I was about to give the order to step-off [he knew roughly when - after the Pall Bearers] he would tap out my orders on his opposite Bearers shoulder, this Bearer doing the same back to Timmington.  In this way each Bearer down the line would see the preparatory and executive signal, and hopefully they would step-off together.  This was actually used on the day with better results than would have been achieved had it, or a similar system not been used;  I certainly could not shout any louder.

At 1330 we left the Coffin and the Flag where we had found it on Monday morning by Poets' Corner, and we left for Chelsea Barracks and lunch arriving shortly before 1400.  We were not to know that the Westminster Coffin would cause great embarrassment to HQ London District and in particular to GSM Dupont, who had considered it reasonable that we who had used it, should return it!  On our side of the discussion we argued that we had left it neat and tidy where we had found it, and anyway, to whom should we have returned it and how?  GSM Dupont got to me about this matter in Wellington Barracks the day of the funeral, but by this time I think that he realised we were not to blame and that his own troops had not done their job properly.  Ours was the only Coffin inside the Abbey on the day so somebody had removed the other one in time.

After lunch we relaxed and watched the last test match between India and England on the television.  It was an exciting finish but my interests and thoughts were elsewhere.

At 1800 the Bearers met dressed  in full Ceremonial uniform which for the Navy is Number One best suit with gold badges, white webbing belt and gaiters, scabbard  and bayonet attached to waist belt, boots and medals.  Bob and I wore shoes and black mourning armbands on our left jacket sleeve.  We did not take the Cap Bearers or the spare Coffin Bearers, but instead we took the two young Trestle Bearers and left for The Queen's Chapel at St James's Palace arriving there at 1835.  Once more we parked our vehicle in the Palace forecourt [Friary Court] and waited for 1845.

Friary Court is like a mini parade ground  surrounded on three sides by buildings of St James's Place. On the side furthest from Marlborough Road [which is the open side] there is a row of arches and above these a balcony with safety railings.  It is from this balcony that the proclamation ....The King is dead [old King], long live the King [new King] read, as well as in other places in London remote from The Palace.

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I walked across to Marlborough Road and spoke with a Police Superintendent, one of many Policemen on duty, and requested that the  traffic be stopped for a couple of minutes while I marched the two Trestle Bearers across the road.  This he agreed to do, and I subsequently marched these men at the quick across Friary Court, across Marlborough Road, and entered The Queen's Chapel by the back side door, for which access is gained through black double gates to the right of the Chapel.  I returned, formed-up the Bearers and marched them back to cross Marlborough Road stopping outside the black double gates, standing on an angle to the road following the line of the kerb and facing the Pall Mall direction.  The same Superintendent came to warn me that shortly the Duke of Edinburgh would pass ahead of us from left to right to enter The Chapel.  As soon as the Superintendent had crossed back to Friary Court,  His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh wearing a greyish coloured lounge suit crossed and entered the Chapel.  I called the Bearers to attention and he acknowledged by waving his hand; his face was sad but he gave us a smile.

At 1900 sharp, the Superintendent called to tell me that the Hearse bringing Lord Mountbatten's Coffin from Romsey had just entered Marlborough Road from The Mall [behind us] and upon being told, I brought the men back to the attention.  When the Hearse stopped, Mr Michael Keynon, who had travelled in the passenger seat, got out and moved to the back of the vehicle, opened the rear tail gate and pulled the after roller-bar housing outwards.  Then he lifted the Union Flag up onto the top of the Coffin to show six inches of naked wood, and pulled the Coffin to the rear of the vehicle so that the head-end was firmly positioned on the first roller.  When his task had been completed, he returned to his seat.  During this period we were all wondering whether this, the actual Coffin, weighed approximately what our several practice Coffin's had weighed, secretly hoping it was at least the same and possibly lighter.

Our approach, launch and lift were all highly successful and as soon as we had the weight the Hearse moved away towards Pall Mall. There were large crowds on the corner of  The Mall and a smaller crowd up ahead on Pall Mall, all watching us, giving the Bearers a taste of what was to come.  We turned 90 degrees to the right and led by the Sub Dean saying Prayers, we entered The Chapel and marched to the Altar step. The simple Chapel looked and smelled lovely because since our last visit, the whole of the Sanctuary both left and right had been covered in flowers, and on entering one could see at a glance that this over night resting place had been prepared for a man much loved.  The lighting within was subtle just as darkness was beginning to settle without on this early September day.  It was peaceful, quiet and dignified but because of the simple decor of The Chapel, almost humble.  The Bearers carried the Coffin on which was a  single wreath of summer flowers on top of Lord Mountbatten's personal Union Flag [the Flag of an Admiral of The Fleet] to the Altar, halted and waited.  After only a short wait which seemed endless,  I realised that nothing was happening; disaster had struck and at such an early stage!  There was only one way out and I had to do it quickly. I marched at the slow from my position right feet-end, down the right hand side of the Coffin, round the head-end, in front of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh [who had followed Bob down the aisle - Bob had gone to his traditional position left side feet-end] and across to the Trestle Numbers who were staring into space.  I leaned over to the  nearest one and whispered to him to put the  trestles in now, whereupon these two young sailors turned to the Coffin and I returned to my position.  The trestles were pushed through, catches were locked, and I ordered the Bearers to turn inwards and to lower the coffin onto the trestles.  My next order was for all to bow, and as I was saying the words I scanned my Bearers faces for tell tale signs of strain from excess weight.  In the absence of such signs I deduced that the Coffins weight  was commensurate to practice Coffin weights or less, especially when they had stood there for an unnecessarily long period awaiting the trestles.

On bowing our heads, Canon Anthony Caesar said Prayers followed by a short  Service conducted by the Bishop of London The Right Reverend and Right Honourable Gerald Ellison, himself a former Naval Chaplain.  When the Bishop had completed his Service, I looked to the Sub Dean to await his nod which signified that the short Church Service was now over.  The Bearers were marched out followed by the Trestle Numbers and halted outside the black double gates facing the road, ready to give a bare-headed attention salute to His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh when he left The Chapel.  We did not see him leave but we were informed that he had done so by our now friendly Superintendent who completed his duties by seeing us march safely back across the road to our waiting vehicle.  The Bearers were entering the vehicle for the return trip to Chelsea Barracks when Bob and I were approached by two reporters;  one, a man from the Press Association and the other, an attractive young woman from the Irish Times in Dublin. Their questions were straight forward and innocuous, names etc, but when the Irish lady wanted to know how we felt about our job, we invited them to met Captain Bethell who answered their remaining questions.

We arrived in Chelsea Barracks at 2000.  I watched the 2100 news, had a long hot bath, and turned-in at 2200 to be ready for Wednesday the 5th September 1979 - the most important day in my life.

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   The official Westminster Abbey Order of Funeral Service
[note pages 2, 4 and 14 are blank]

Our usual transport which we had used since arriving in London, except when travelling in a Naval Police Utilecon, had been withdrawn  on arrival in Chelsea the night before and we had thanked our driver for all his good efforts.  In its place we had been given a thirty six seater Navy coach which was to take us to Wellington Barracks that morning, and later in the day, to take us from Chelsea Barracks home to the Portsmouth areas.  The coach was due to leave Chelsea at 0830 and I had set my alarm for 0645 to allow myself time to dress with ease. I had a good nights sleep, awoke feeling good and took a bath on rising from my bed;  and I took two more baths between 0715 and 0800.  We left our Barracks on time and enjoyed the comfort of the spacious coach after having been crammed into a minibus.  The roads were crowded as the commuter traffic was building-up entering central London and our journey along Millbank was taking longer than HQ London District Order 6412Q had planned, which said that an 0830 departure time would get us to Wellington Barracks by 0900.  Traffic in Abingdon Street was moving very slowly and by the time we reached Parliament Square South, we were in danger of being late.  Bob stopped the coach and asked a group of Policemen who were now everywhere in strength to help us through the Square by halting traffic to our right coming down St Margaret's Street.  Once into the Square, our remaining journey to Birdcage Walk was quick and easy although on arrival, the parking area was so over subscribed by other coaches, both military and civilian which  had brought troops from all over  the greater London area, that we had to park close to Great George Street.  We embarked from our  coach and marched down towards the East gate of Wellington Barracks, passing business men in bowler hats and pinstripe suits walking to their offices.

The sight of the many different uniforms in brilliant colours and flamboyant style was a magnificent thing to behold.  Everything was highly polished, well groomed, immaculately pressed, exciting, with all present proud to be there and anxious for the start of the Parade. The amount of metal present was very impressive with swords of all types, spurs, breast plates, badges, medals in their thousands, musical instruments by the ton, buckles, buttons and many other shiny objects.  There was much talk between units of the same Group and between Groups, although the French, Indian, Gurkha, and to a lesser degree the America and Canadian Units understandably kept themselves to themselves.  The large tents were in  use as changing rooms; many people were drinking beverages from plastic cups, and there was much mobility especially of middle rank Guards and other Army Officers.  We had  been on the Parade Ground sometime in more or less loose formation behind our little white signs, when at 0945, word was passed through the waiting troops that we were to form-up ready in our Groups and be prepared to march away.  The talking ceased, each Unit Commander formed his own Unit into proper formation, the itinerant Guards Officers attached themselves to Groups as Marshals and the booming voice of GSM Dupont steadied the whole, warning Group One that they were about to step-off.  On his command, Group One left the Barrack and wheeled right out of  the West gate and across Birdcage Walk, led by the  Central Band of the Royal Air Force followed by  the United States Sailors and Marines, French Sailors, Indian Soldiers, Canadian Soldiers, members of United Kingdom Women's Services, the Royal Air Force  Regiment and the Gurkhas.  The music from this group had alerted the many building workers high  up on top of the old barrack roof, who had downed tools to take advantage of their birds eye view.  If any one of them had taken a camera to work [it was common knowledge that the funeral would start from Wellington Barracks] the resultant pictures would  be impressive .

Group Two received the customary warning of departure and off they went. This Group was typical Parade Composition which Londoners see often and which sightseers return home disappointed if they do not see.  It comprised of the Mass Bands of the Household Cavalry  marching dismounted, the Life Guards wearing khaki uniform and marching as foot soldiers, followed by the Life Guards mounted Squadron in all their fine full dress, but again dismounted and without their horses, the Royal Marines and the Royal Navy marching contingents carrying reversed arms  - [SLR rifles].

Now came the time for the main Group, Group Three, to move off.  We were the largest centre piece [although the last group in the Procession] having two large Bands, and when fully formed-up on leaving St James's Palace, it would be made up  in the following order.  At our head the Massed Bands of the Royal Marines; Staff Officers to General Officer Commanding London District; the GOC London District Major General John Swinton; the Insignia Bearers; Secretary Central Chancery of The Order's of Knighthood Major General Peter Gillett; the Charger Octave - Lord Mountbatten's horse affectionately known as Dolly; the Gun Carriages Crew with the Pall Bearers and ourselves marching alongside the Coffin; the Mountbatten family male mourners with HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, HRH The Prince of Wales, HRH The Duke of Kent, HRH The Duke of Gloucester, HRH Prince Michael of Kent; Chief of the Defence Staff [Lord Mountbatten was the very first] Admiral of The Fleet Sir Terence Lewin;  the three Chiefs of Staff UK Forces; three Senior Officers representing the United Sates Army, Navy and Air Force; three Senior Officers from the Burmese Army and Air Force; Elder Brethren of Trinity house; President and  Vice Chairman of the Burma Star Association; detachments of the ex-Services League; Royal Navy Association; HMS Kelly Reunion; Standards of the Royal British Legion and the Burma Star Association; Mass Bands of the Grenadier Guards and Coldstream Guards, and bringing up the rear, a detachment of the Blues and Royals Mounted Squadron. We followed our rehearsal route to St James's Palace with the Bearers marching at the back of the Rear Drag Rope Numbers.  The crowd was thin on the ground, although in fairness I cannot give a true picture or begin to quantify because my eyes were fixed at all times in front of me with corresponding narrow arcs of vision.

The Gun Carriage arrived in position outside The Queen's Chapel at approximately 1015, halted [leaving the rest of the Group Three still in Cleveland Row] and I continued with my orders  "Bearers off cap's........Bearers move to the left in file, left turn".  The Pall Bearers arrived and took their places either side of the Gun Carriage with Rear Admiral Chit Hlaing, General de Boissieu, Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir William Dickson, Lieutenant General John Richards on the left side, and Admiral R L Pereira, Admiral Hayward, General  Sir Robert Ford, Admiral of The Fleet Sir Edward Ashmore [the senior Pall Bearer] on the right.  With them came the Insignia Bearers who went to their position up near the front of the Group formation, and who carried Lord Mountbatten's many and splendid decorations.  We stood to attention facing The Chapel, our heads bare, half the Bearers in the sunshine the other half in shade, the high parts of St James's Palace blocking the sun. The wait seemed to be interminable, and when the Royal Prince's and the Mountbatten family males arrived in the lower corridor, I was angry with myself  on hearing the Gun Carriages Crew being called to attention.  I was not aware that they were stood at ease, or that they were allowed to be, and  because of that I had kept my men standing to attention needlessly for some fifteen minutes.

At 1028 the five Prince's of The Blood and members of the Mountbatten family entered The Queen's Chapel and stood just to the left of the door in a recess.  At 1030 I was given the nod from a Procession Marshal that all was ready.  Last night, when we carried Lord Louis into The Chapel, we had all realised that we had created Naval history by being the first Royal Navy sailors to  carry the coffin of a member of the Royal family into a Royal Chapel, and we had been moved accordingly, some more than others.  Today, we were going to create more Naval [and therefore British history] by being the first men in blue to carry a Royal into Westminster Abbey; a job traditionally done in British Pageantry by The Guards Regiments.  These were tremendous honours which filled us with deep respect and awe, rarely experienced by everyday people, and which today, added to our infinite pride and awareness of what we were about to do, making us feel as though these intangible senses had become a drug to our bodies and that we had been removed from reality.

As I led the Bearers towards the Chapel door I caught the Sub Deans eye, observed his short but confident smile, and followed him to the Altar.  The recess on the left was very shallow and I could sense the nearness of the members of The Royal family and the Mountbatten family as we passed down the narrow aisle.  The flowers and their smell  were beautiful and although The Chapel lights were on, the sun was streaming in through the large window above the upper pews over the door.  The Bearers stopped at my order and turned inwards to face each other.  They lifted the Coffin onto their shoulders with a gentle slow moving action and then turned towards the feet-end and the Altar.  This time the Trestle Numbers did their job without the need for prompting and in a way, for me, made up for last nights affair.  Over night the private wreath had been taken off the Coffin, and in its place Lord Mountbatten's Admiral of The Fleet Cocked Hat had been placed on top with the Gold Stick of The Colonel  of the Life Guards on the left, the Sword of Honour presented by the City of London on the right, and all three symbols of this great mans achievements had been wired into position.  I ordered the Coffin to be turned around through 180 degrees to face the door and then repositioned myself at the front, first checking that the Flag was square.  The Sub Dean stood three feet in front of me facing the Coffin, awaiting my nod to signify our readiness.  This I gave and as he turned towards the door we stepped-off to follow him, he continuing his reciting of Prayer's as we marched.  Immediately opposite the door of The Chapel, up on a balcony of the Palace, was the first of many BBC cameras [ITV was on strike at that the time of the funeral].  We knew that on stepping out from The Chapel  into brilliant sunshine,  we would be seen by millions of people, all hoping that we would transport our precious cargo with great dignity.  These cameras brought our loved ones, our superiors and subordinates, our ship mates, colleagues and acquaintances throughout The Fleet, to London to witness and watch our every move.  We left The Chapel, moved slowly over the pavement feeling for the deep step down into the road, and when on the crown of the road we wheeled left for our approach to the waiting Gun Carriage, whose Crew stood in silence, bare headed and with all heads bowed.  The launching of the Coffin went according to plan without problems, with Bob and I assisting each other with the rear wooden locking bar as we  had agreed to do.  I turned the Bearers outwards and we marched through the open Drag Rope Numbers wheeled around on the end men on each side, each column of Bearers continuing until they reached their position on the outside of the Pall Bearers.  The Bearers were halted and each received his cap in time to place it on his head in synchrony with the Gun Carriages Crew. The Rear Drag Rope Numbers went through the reformation sequence without a flaw and after six exact and sound splitting steps, their feet came to rest as part of a unified body of men.  The scene was set, and all who had taken part in the Ceremony of placing the Coffin onto the Gun Carriage had now been made ready to proceed and were facing the direction of The Mall.  GSM Dupont prepared himself to give his last order of the day.  "Funeral Procession will advance - by the right, slow march".

The Massed Bands of the Royal Marines, their drums draped in black, beat out the step with an extra special bang on the big drum and the clash of the cymbals.  I had the honour of marching alongside a group of four Admiral's of The Fleet  namely Lord Mountbatten and Sir Edward Ashmore to my immediate left,  HRH The Duke of Edinburgh just behind me and Sir Terrence Lewin just behind him, a contact so rare even if one were to serve for considerably longer than my own twenty six years [at that time].  The music was desperately sad and enough to  reduce those on the verge of showing grief to tears.  As we turned into The Mall one could see [and sense] large crowds almost to a person silent, some crying loud enough to be heard, all there to witness the funeral of an old man, a slain hero, a great warrior, a great and active family man  and a warm human being.  Half way down The Mall, up ahead of my marching position, I could see a group of Guardsmen with their Colours ready to give  a General Salute.  I was wondering what they would do when we  approached and became a little anxious when the Subaltern shouted "General Salute...Present Arms",  and The Colours Bearer started to dip The Colours for us to trip over.  I heard a typical military "wait for it", and saw The Colours return to its raised position all to be repeated as soon as we, the widest Unit had passed, and all too late I am afraid!

On approaching Horse Guards Arch, the Guns Crew closed ranks to ensure an easy and uneventful passage through the Arch.  The Arch, which at the slow march was a long tunnel, afforded us a temporary privacy which some used to remove their headgear to tuck away the quiff of hair which had annoyed them during the march so far.  It was a spontaneous movement for those who dared to correct their dress and a welcomed deviation from total concentration.  As the Gun Carriage and its Crew got fully onto Whitehall, the ranks were opened again to the normal marching formation.  We kept to the left hand side of Whitehall until after passing The Cenotaph, when we shifted to the centre of the road.  The crowds had been limited to the pavement only even over on the right hand side where half of the road being unused was kept clear. This part of the Procession seemed to be bombarded by many noises all discordant with our lead Band.  We could hear Big Ben in the distance sounding 1100; the Group Three rear Band [Massed Bands of the Grenadiers and Coldstreams] playing  a different tune to our Band with a resultant differing step and pace, and later on, the sound of Westminster Abbey's tenor bell, being tolled for the whole of the thirty eight minutes Procession, getting louder and louder as we neared the Abbey.  On entering Parliament Square my pulse started to race and my throat became dry at the thought of what would be required of me in a few minutes time.  I was working on the controlling of my composure when I suddenly realised that three of us were heading for collision, or at least a trip-up which would have cause a catastrophe.  The Pall Bearers had not marched during the rehearsals, and on entering the Broad Sanctuary they had assumed a position which was further away from the Gun Carriage than I had contemplated.  As Admiral of The Fleet Sir Edward Ashore moved out I shortened my step to avoid contact with him and in so doing, unwittingly moved so close to Commander Tricky that he nearly ran me down.  He told me that I would have to move over and soon.  The only way clear for me was on the traffic island in the middle of the road, so up I stepped and felt immediately self conscious because I towered above everybody else.  My worst fears were confirmed when I saw the video play back and my head and shoulders were seen to rise above the rest of the Naval Party.  By the time we halted outside the Abbey my pulse rate was still high but now I was thanking my lucky stars that I had not created further Naval history by being the first rating to cause an Admiral of The Fleet, whilst on Parade, to fall full length onto a street in London.

Captain Bethell halted the Gun Carriage within an inch of the desired spot and then waited for me to take the Bearers, bare headed, to form-up at the rear of the Gun between the front line of the Mountbatten family male mourners and the Rear Drag Rope Numbers.  The rear section took six side paces to left and right, four young sailors removed the Flag corner weights and we approached the Gun Carriage.  The Coffin was gently rolled off the platform and placed on the  eight sturdy shoulders.  The Rear Drag Rope Numbers were marched forward, the whole Crew turned about bared and then bowed their heads.  The Coffin moved left through 90 degrees and I took my position at the front.  At our rear was a Royal Marines Guard of Honour at the Present Arms; at our right, what Lord Mountbatten whilst on a visit to HMS Excellent had called his last taxi - the Gun Carriage; on the left the Mountbatten family male members and behind them The Royal Prince's; ahead, the towering West front of the Abbey and the Great West door.  The tenor bell was now silent.  All was ready for us to proceed.  My nerve was strong, my pulse now normal and I swallowed hard before giving the order which was to take the Royal Navy Bearers through the Great West door and into history.

We moved forward observed by a Marshal inside the Abbey who, upon seeing me near the bottom of the first step, ushered the Abbey Procession on its way through the Nave.  It was led by a Verger followed by many Senior Churchmen. 

I prepared myself for the Fanfare which when it sounded, was no less a moving and indelible experience for me as it had been yesterday, but this time I was in firm control of my emotions.  I cannot emphasise enough the beauty and majesty of this Fanfare which was composed by Lieutenant Colonel Sir Vivian Dunn Royal Marines Retired.  We followed the Procession down to the Lantern at a quicker pace than we had practiced.  It was as though we were pulled along in the slip stream of those ahead of us, and yet we got no closer to the Pall Bearers than we had been to their stand-ins at the rehearsals.  The faster pace did not in any way spoil our performance or appear undignified to the onlooker, but it did show on the Bearers faces which were covered with beads of perspiration.  During our passage to the Catafalque the Choir sang their pieces.  As I neared the Catafalque I grew ever closer to The Queen and to the remainder of the Royal family who were not walking behind the Coffin.  They were standing on my right and the Ladies of the Mountbatten family on my left.  I halted the Bearers and before giving the order to launch, Bob and I lifted up the Union Flag onto the top of the Coffin.  The Catafalque was not to favour us with good behaviour and it rocked from side to side during launch despite me holding the side as the Coffin travelled.  As rehearsed, I had side stepped to my right with my back to The Queen to be in a position to pull the Flag back over the Coffin when it stopped.  The Coffin was now motionless but I could see that it was a good nine inches from the wooden back stop peg, and the Bearers were standing erect to attention thinking that their task was completed.  The importance of the Coffin being on the peg was paramount, and had we left the Coffin any distance short of it, it would have been immediately obvious to mourners a few feet away appearing as though the head-end was suspended in mid air.  This, plus the untold difficulties the Vergers may have had  in turning the Catafalque due to imbalance and uneven weight distribution was enough to make me attempt to rectify the problem as best I could.  Conscious that The Queen could see my every move, I side stepped back to my left until I reached the first foot-end Bearer.  I leaned over to whisper  in his ear that the Coffin needed to be pushed further onto the Catafalque.  Luckily he understood immediately, looked across to his opposite number, gave him a nod and indicated by body language that a further push was required.  Together they pushed the Coffin into position.  The whole evolution took less than a minute, and was done with dignity and gentleness and to the vast majority watching, appeared to be part of the plan.  What we would have given for a platform like the Hearse and the Gun Carriage with rollers for easy movement.

We moved to our seats and the Service was started by The Dean of Westminster.

The Prince of Wales read a lesson from Psalm 107 verses 23 to 26 and 28 to 30.  He read the words with a strong clear voice, words he  must have thought about many times himself especially when the Commanding Officer of a very small Minesweeper in heavy seas.  The lesson was followed by the hymn I Vow to thee my Country,  with words so perfectly fitting for the funeral of a man who had served his country so well.   During rehearsals in the Abbey I had been told of the importance to check that the Coffin and the Catafalque were square and properly positioned, and as the Service continued I soon saw why.  High above in the Lantern, looking down on the Coffin was a television camera, the pictures from which were televised regularly and for longish periods during the thirty minute Service.  The television monitor in front of us showed clearly that the edges of the Coffin ran parallel to the black and white ceramic floor tiles, and any deviation, however small, would have formed an angle with the tiles.

After the singing of the second hymn, we sat to listen to the Choir singing an Anthem - this part of the Service was called a Corporate Act of Recollection.  Next came Prayers including The Lord's Prayer led by the Precentor and Sacrist, and then the various Church Leaders followed each other with their specific Prayers followed by the  congregation singing that well loved and famous hymn Jerusalem. The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Donald Coggan Archbishop of Canterbury standing at the High Altar said the Commendatory Prayer.  This was followed by more individual Prayers being spoken by other Church Leaders.  When all the Prayers had been said The Last Post was sounded followed by the Naval Reveille.  I witnessed some who had not previously shown emotion, become affected by the echoes up above, and their eyes were wet but their heads were held high with pride.  We continued standing for the final hymn - Eternal Father strong to save whose arm hath bound the restless Wave - known by most as the sailors hymn.  The spoken Service was brought to an end by The Dean of Westminster saying two Prayers and during the last Prayer giving The Blessing.  The penultimate act was the Choir singing God be in my Head.  It was beautifully sung with love and feeling and once again I found myself having to hold my emotions in check particularly during the last two lines.  The congregation stood while the organ played The Dead March in Saul, and when finished the bells of the Abbey were rung half muffled and the Procession re-formed in preparation for leaving the Abbey.  The time was approximately 1210.

We were summoned to return to the Catafalque and the Bearers did their reverse formation in the aisle quickly and accurately.  As soon as the organist had stopped playing, I, and behind me Bob, had been watching for the two Vergers to turn the Catafalque through 180 degrees.  We were a little concerned that we had formed up and that on cue, I was about to give the order to slow march towards the Coffin.  By the time we had reached the bottom of the aisle and were wheeling left [but a very short distance from the Coffin] Bob and I were attracting the Stewards attention that the Coffin was still facing the wrong way for our formation.  At the time of these potential crises there is always a sense of urgency that one requires others to adopt on ones own behalf, which nearly always accompanies much anxiety that things are going to go wrong.  Thankfully, our anxiety was transient and in time, albeit much  too slow for us, the Vergers approached and carried out their task.  Our approach was now more  critical than ever because this was the only time we were being observed by the whole of the Royal family and the whole of the Mountbatten family at close quarters, in addition to all those who had taken their places in the Abbey after having been part of Group Three.

 The Coffin was taken off the Catafalque and put up onto the shoulders of the Bearer Party amid much movement by members of the Church  who  led the final Procession out of the Abbey.  They were followed by the  Insignia Bearers, the Pall Bearers, and the Coffin.  Immediately behind the Coffin there were ten members of the  Mountbatten family led by Lady Pamela Hicks the Chief Mourner and youngest daughter of Lord Mountbatten with her husband  Mr David Hicks.  Behind them was The Lord Chamberlain and behind him were no fewer than twenty three members of the Royal Family led by Her  Majesty The Queen.  Then came the Private Secretaries and an Equerry in Waiting to The Queen.

The procession of the Heads of State was formed, and it, with three other groups moved independently to the Great West door.  The groups consisted of four Kings with two Queen Consorts, the Most Senior Armed Forces Officers and representatives of  two of Lord Mountbatten's close associations, the Trinity House and the Burma Star.  Other groups in the congregation left the Abbey by the West Cloister door.

The speed of our advance was more in keeping with that we had constantly practiced and we all felt more at ease as we neared the Great West door and the waiting world.  At the West end of the Nave the Insignia Bearers moved off to the Jerusalem Chamber whilst the Pall Bearers left the  Abbey, stopped in front of the Lining Party then turned inwards to face the Coffin.  We stepped back into brilliant sunshine to the sound of bells, a hushed large crowd and the Royal Marines Guard of Honour, once more at the Present Arms.  The Land Rover, standing in position up to the North, facing North, outside the West iron entrance gates with engine running, was ready and prepared to take over temporarily from the Royal Navy with charge of the Coffin.  After placing the Coffin, we slow marched for twenty-odd paces then quick marched to the corner of Great Smith Street.  There we did our twice practiced break-off and dash for the Naval vehicles waiting to take us to Waterloo Station.  Why we had risked life and limb on two occasions earlier is now totally incomprehensible, and our journey was at thirty miles per hour on closed off roads and empty streets with Policemen by the score, there ready to re-direct any bewildered motorist or vantage seeking pedestrian.  The lead vehicle passed the end of Westminster Bridge just as the Life Guards Land Rover and its escorts were a quarter way across, and both vehicles arrived in plenty of time to be ready.  In our eagerness to disembark so that the vehicles could be driven away out of sight, I fell the Bearers in alongside the wrong support pillar and only when Bob looked at the ramp, which was some two yards to his left, did we change to the next support pillar with the ramp now directly behind us.  The move was done almost surreptitiously because there were few people on the platform and virtually all were looking in the opposite direction to await the arrival of the Land Rover.  When it did arrive it was slightly late.

The placing of the Coffin went according to plan which was witnessed by the Mountbatten family who were standing in a line adjacent to the ramp stretching from the railway carriage across the platform at 90 degrees to the track.  Bob stayed outside the carriage, and when the Mountbatten family, having seen the Coffin safely into the Special Train, left for their seats  Bob gave me the nod that all was clear.  We left the carriage, marched onto the platform, halted and turned left to face the train.  The Special Trains doors were shut by railway staff dressed in smart suits, the ramp was removed and taken from view, the Coffin carriage double doors were shut and secured and all under the watchful eye of Sir Eric Penn.

Exactly on time without whistles shouts or ceremony, the train glided out of the Station bound for Romsey.  Following at the back, though not attached, was a another locomotive which I believe travelled behind in  case the Special Train broke down en route.

Our very special task was now completed and when I saw that the train was well clear of the Station, I dismissed the men to return to the waiting vehicles.  Many Policemen cleared the road to allow us back onto York Road.  The watching public who had crowded onto the pavements had now dispersed and they had become part of everyday London hustle and bustle.  We had become private persons and the stage foot lights had been turned from an intense brilliance to the off position in as many seconds - the anticlimax was felt by all.  On arrival at the Naval Patrol HQ in South Kensington we met Captain Bethell and Commander Tricky who had been with Tom Fleming in the BBC commentary box.  Commander Mankerty asked me what my name was because he had told Tom Fleming that it was.........."Dykes" I said.  "Good - that's what I told him".  Between them they got it nearly right, Dyke being the name actually broadcast:  Bob had a similar close run thing with his surname Doyle, which was printed as Boyle in the Ceremonial programme.

Bob kept his promise and stood the Bearers a round of drinks in the Regulators Mess, which was a very welcome refreshment.  After much excited talk and offers of congratulations, we were ushered away to Chelsea Barracks to change into civilian clothes and then to board our coaches for the journey home.

On Thursday the 6th of September [my eldest sons 16th birthday] all participants in the Mountbatten funeral Ceremonies had to report to HMS Excellent by 0830 for a debrief.  There, formed on three sides in front of a dais, we gathered round to hear Captain Bethell say that the Royal Navy had acquitted itself superbly and that we had performed all our duties with typical Naval thoroughness.  Messages were sent to The Fleet by HM The Queen and HRH The Prince of Wales, the latter being read by Captain Bethell.

   Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge

Lord Mountbatten's gravestone in Romsey Abbey


 The following messages were signalled and the poor quality of the reproduced signals is such that it cannot be reproduced here.  Therefore, I will type the messages.

From Commander in Chief Fleet.

Subject: The Funeral of Admiral of The Fleet Lord Mountbatten.

Her Majesty The Queen has asked that the following message should receive wide circulation.  Message  starts:

Quote I should be grateful if you would convey my appreciation to the many units of the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force who participated in the funeral of Lord Mountbatten .  All three Services played an outstanding part and their contribution to this historic occasion will long be remembered. Elizabeth R. Unquote.  Message ends.

From Excellent, and passed to all Ships and Establishments  who took part

Following received from Buckingham Palace.

From HRH The Prince of Wales for Captain HMS Excellent, Whale Island Portsmouth.

Please convey my warmest congratulations to the members of your Gun Carriages Crew for the superb way in which they performed their duties at the funeral of Lord Mountbatten today.  I was proud to be a witness of such a splendid Crew and moved by the way in which the Royal Navy carried out its great responsibilities.  Nothing could have given my great uncle more pleasure or more satisfaction.  Charles.

From Defence Commcen London to Mercury

Following received from Buckingham Palace.

From HRH The Prince of Wales for Captain HMS Mercury.

Please convey my warmest congratulations to the members of your Bearer Party for the splendid way in which they carried out their duties at the funeral of Lord Mountbatten today. I was proud and moved to witness the way in which the Royal Navy carried out its great responsibilities and I know that nothing could have given my great uncle more pleasure or more satisfaction. Charles.

On being dismissed, our final act as a team was for each to sign our names around the Coffin outline on each copy of the Ceremonial programme.  When all our business was finished, those who were not bound for HMS Mercury said their farewells and parted company almost certainly never to be seen again as a group; the rest of us made our way back to our Establishment in the Meon Valley. In the morning  I watched a full video tape of the television coverage sitting in a small recording studio by myself.  I must admit that I was impressed and very proud that I had taken part.  After lunch, the Captain, Captain S.D.S. Bailey Royal Navy  and the Executive Officer Commander J L Williams Royal Navy congratulated all concerned [London and Romsey] and thanked us for representing HMS Mercury so well.

Finally, since the men had either volunteered their service or had been recalled from Summer leave, they were due one weeks leave preceded by  a generous extra long weekend off.  They went home to many parts of the country where they were received warmly.

Whatever their welcome, they were certainly the finest possible advertisement for the Royal Navy the Service Lord Mountbatten, Admiral of The Fleet, had loved so much.

Godfrey Dykes 

Extracts from my book are Copyright. 

Lord Mountbatten's Memorial Statue

mountbatten memorial.jpg (59426 bytes)  mountbatten memorial 2.jpg (80146 bytes)  mountbatten_memorial_3.jpg (60197 bytes)  mountbatten memorial 4.jpg (67205 bytes)  mountbatten_memorial_5.jpg (46532 bytes)  mountbatten memorial 6.jpg (44552 bytes)  mountbatten_memorial7_jpg.jpg (43949 bytes)  and my invite mountbatten_memorial_7.jpg (13862 bytes) and  mountbatten memorial 8.jpg (27802 bytes) which is difficult to read, so here is a  RETYPE OF NEWSPAPER TEXT


In happier times! The following photographs are very rare but not unique.  They were taken onboard the Royal Yacht Britannia during one of her many cruises to sunnier climes.  They were given to me as personal keepsakes by Danny Brown, who I have mentioned in paragraph 2 of BITS AND PIECES Vol 4 [under NAVY THINGS].  Sadly and regrettably, Lord Louis has gone; the Yacht has gone, and now Danny has gone, so as a tribute to all of them, I am publishing the pictures here before I go!

Click to enlarge  Click to enlarge  Click to enlarge  Click to enlarge  Click to enlarge  Click to enlarge

The photograph above of Lord Mountbatten's personal staff whilst C-in-C Mediterranean was submitted by Derek Lilliman who now lives in Perth Western Australia.  Derek was a member of that Personal Staff and is shown as a two badge killick [sailor with two stripes and an anchor above them] standing immediately behind and to the right [as viewed] of Lady Pamela Mountbatten, the youngest daughter of Lord and Lady Mountbatten.  Thank you Derek.  Derek can be reached  on <>.


Following text taken from the Daily Telegraph Saturday August 28th 2004


     It is now 25 years since the funeral of Lord Louis Mountbatten, and in all that time I have resisted the
 temptation to write my thoughts about the break in UK tradition for Ceremonial,
 State and Royal Funerals. I have, long ago,
 researched  London ceremonial and state funerals, and without exception,
 the coffin bearers at every funeral since that
 of Queen Victoria in 1901 have been awarded some kind of medal in
 recognition of their very special duties.
  Usually, the award has been either a medal from the
 Order of the British Empire
 or from the Victorian Order, manifest in that the bearers themselves
 get the BEM or the RVM, whereas,
 the commissioned officer and the warrant officer get the MBE or the MVO,
 the latter usually being at 5th class.

On this occasion, for some inexplicable reason,
no medals were awarded.
It is widely believed, that Lord Mountbatten himself had expressed
the wish that medals should not be awarded,
the reward, were one needed, was the pride the men would feel,
and subsequently cherish, at being given such a prestigious role in the funeral procession.

Lord Louis wrote his own funeral programme/operations order which I myself read every word of.
I also saw and read the Army Operations Order, the document actually used for the
funeral, which in effect put 'meat on the bones' of Lord Louis's orders. At no point did Lord Louis
state in writing that medals were not to be issued, nor was this mentioned in the Army order.

Over a year after the funeral, [which suggests that what follows, had nothing whatsoever
to do with the funeral duties
], a correspondence pack was circulated around my ship,
 HMS MERCURY, and a keen 
     supporter of the idea of tradition [medals should be issued as in the past] allowed me to view the contents,
 a pack I would never be allowed to see in the course of my duties.
 I photocopied the relevant part namely the minute flysheet for that particular circulation.

The pack was circulated trawling for names to be put forward for an award,
 and the subject was minuted nine times [M1 to M9], before it died a natural [or, an unnatural] death.
 Here are those M1-M9 minutes spread over three pages of A4.
 Click to enlargePage 1 is started by the Assistant Secretary to the Captain [A/SEC] with M1.
M2 is written by the Commander, the second in command. He had been a senior officer 
on the Royal Yacht Britannia before coming to HMS MERCURY. Note he say
"......and I can easily equate this with the MVO earned by officers
organising the RY [Royal Yacht] on State occasions." Clearly, he was very keen
for me to have a medal. M3, written by the Commander CN [the training commander for
communications and navigation] who was awaiting the input of any other names. He
wanted the pack brought up [BU] to him again on the 6th October 1980. Page 2
Click to enlarge  M4, was completed by CDR X [Commander X for experiments and trials]
who had no candidates in his department. M5, though not marked as such, was a reference
f    for the Commander to see the Captain [M2 paragraph 2] to discuss me getting a medal. M6, now having seen
the Captain and the discussion over, the Commander writes to say that a draft letter will now
be written in my favour to be forwarded to the Port Admiral for 
consideration. M7 is written by the First Lieutenant, my direct boss to say
that the letter has been written. M8, by the Commander, agrees with draft
letter but wants it reduced in length if the Captain approves. Page 3
Click to enlarge  and finally, at M9, the Assistant Secretary, sends the final draft to 
the Captain for approval.

NOTE: The Captain does not write minutes in any correspondence pack, and minutes which are written
by his junior officers, are often further discussed and amplified with the Captain in his office.

At the next public ceremonial funeral, even the driver of the hearse taking the body of the
 Princess Diana from London to Althrop, was awarded the MBE.

Whether you think it fair for me to seek an answer to the above or not,
I am sure that you will agree that there is a QUESTION TO BE ASKED.

However, since the question can never now be posed, the answer is for all time part of history,
and this epilogue becomes an integral part of the story about the funeral, of naval and
of British history in the 20th century.


Godfrey Dykes 28th August 2004



1.  The following email was received from Samuel Greenhill - for which I am most grateful. It reads

    I have asked Samuel for an account of the service he mentions, and told him
 that I would be attending Romsey Abbey at 3pm on Sunday the
5th September for the 25th commemorative Memorial Service
for Lord Mountbatten.

Samuel replied 

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From :  Sam Greenhill <>
Sent :  29 August 2004 14:13:39
To :
Subject :  RE: Your Site
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Dear Mr Dykes,

The Memorial Service I mentioned was one I organised. At our 6th Form College, we have a Royalist Group and we decided to have a memorial service in our parish church. We opened it to the public and it was attended by members of The Royal British Legion. Sadly, we did not have our MPs or Mayor there. It was most dissapointing, but we were told that it was to be treated as a personal service, and we were most pleased with the results.

Lord Mountbatten was and forever will be, a hero in our hearts. And we shall continue to honour his memory as best we can.

I do hope you too, enjoy the memorial services you are to attend.

All the Best


Good luck to you Samuel, and my respects and congratulations to your college



On Sunday the 5th September 2004 [exactly 25 years to the day of the funeral] we attended a memorial service in Romsey Abbey. We were guests of the Earl Mountbatten Memorial Branch of the Royal British Legion and were given preferential seating [reserved tickets] on the left hand side, third row back, next to  the dignitaries shown below.   I recognised Lord and Lady Romsey and Rear Admiral Bawtree [the chief guests] immediately, Lord Romsey [eventually to become Lord Mountbatten], for obvious reasons, and Admiral Bawtree because he was the WEO [Weapons Electrical Officer] of HMS Rothesay [F107 Commanded by Commander D.N. O'Sullivan R.N., - 1969/1971] - Far East and Biera Patrol, my very first ship on going back to "general service" from being a Submariner. In  those days, he was a lieutenant commander.  He did not recognise me for he was far too busy fulfilling his duties - yet, in his daily dealings of that time - 34 years ago - he dealt with my many problems [equipment defects] when I was the Radio Supervisor of the ship. 

However, Lord Romsey [later] shook my hand in a most generous manner, listening to my account of how we buried his grandpa  25 years ago.      I reminded him of his generous invite to his own  personal drawing room at Broadlands some time  after the burial event, to which, he claimed no recollection and no memory of. 

We were pleased to attend the ceremony. I have to say that we [Chris Ray - formerly Williams and a London Ceremonial coffin bearer [if you want, one of the top eight boys!] - his wife Lynn and son Simon; my good friends from New Zealand Neal Catley and Darren Conway both of whom were lieutenant commanders in the Royal New Zealand Navy and now work  for the New Zealand Government, Neal as a very senior executive in national security, and Darren as an executive engineer in the same organisation; and Beryl, my wife, and I] were  perplexed at the order of the ceremony and the words used by the clerics. We had expected that Lord Louis' name would figure large in the memorial service, remembering the days of domestic UK violence [viz IRA]. What transpired was an irrational and "not-best-fitting" rendition of a Padre telling us about his own 25 years career in the navy,  [he was not an RN'er at the time of the funeral] quickly followed by him telling us of the "legacy" present-day members of the Armed Services had inherited from the second world war.  The main anchor of his speech led one to believe that "60 years ago" [D-Day] was more important than "25 years ago" [and well that might be], but we were gathered in  Romsey Abbey for the "25 years ago" bit. From beginning to end, spread amongst the three clerics, Lord Louis's name was mentioned but briefly, and that in the context of SEATO Supremo [taking the surrender of the Japanese in 1945] and once [I think] as an Admiral.  At no stage was his association as a  member of the royal family mentioned; no mention of his violent death at the hands of terrorists;  no mention of his father vis-a-vis his own promotion to the highest of all naval ranks, namely the First Sea Lord. 

This is the Memorial Service programme. 

Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge

After the service, we gathered around Lord Mountbattens tomb to view the wreaths - this picture shows Chris Ray at the side of Lord Mountbatten's tomb Click to enlarge - he has asked that his email address be placed here for anyone wishing to contact him on Then our friends from New Zealand left to continue their business in the UK, by travelling to Cheltenham and GCHQ. The rest of us went to the new and resplendent building of the Romsey Royal British Legion where speeches were delivered and thanks given.  Chis Ray's name and that of my own were read out as being part of the London Ceremonial Funeral coffin bearer party, and we were thanked for attending.  Lord Romsey spent some time with the two of us talking about that sad day 25 years ago.  He generously shook our hands and touchingly thanked us again for the manner in which we had carried out our duties.

YESTERDAY, the 6th September 2004 Chris Ray plus his family, Beryl and myself accompanied by friends, Mr and Mrs Preston Willson, were visitors to HMS Excellent [Whale Island], there to view the State Gun Carriage and the establishment museum. This is a picture of Chris Ray Click to enlarge, now, sadly, because of an assault whilst serving as a policeman, is wheelchair-bound {in the back ground is me and Preston [Tugg] Willson, ex RN CPO]. We were met and hosted by the Museum's Curator who also has the wonderful title of "Keeper of the State Gun Carriage" - the very one used at Lord Mountbattens funeral [and others of course.] The Curator, Brian Witts, Lieutenant Commander MBE [retired], was an outstanding guide, whose knowledge [and amateur dramatics which accompany that knowledge] was profound - he too had taken part in Mountbatten's funeral as an officer marching with the rear drag-rope sailors. The tour lasted over two hours, and during that time he kept our interest with information laced with a goodly helping of fun and humour. It was very moving to be able to see and touch the gun carriage once again, and each of our group spent silent moments reflecting upon those time back in 1979. During this part of the tour we were told about the four brass weights, and I asked Brian why I hadn't got one of them.  Although Brian and his boss [the establishments Commander] will receive the customary letter of thanks, I think it fitting that our appreciation [Chris Ray's and mine] is posted here for the larger world wide audience to see. Brian tells me that he had 2000 visitors last year, but that he stresses that he will not accept applications from individuals to do the tour, but only from groups of people. It is not suitable for children and pets are not allowed. If you are interested, and Brian has enough space and time to accommodate you, then why not try contacting him by writing to him at:

Brian Witts Esq MBE
Lieutenant Commander [Retired]
Museum Curator
HMS Excellent
Whale Island

Thank you again Brian.

As an after thought, the State Gun Carriage has now laid 'idle' for 25 years since Lord Mountbattens funeral in 1979. Its longest 'idle' period was from 1910 [Edward VII] to 1936 [George V] = 26 years, so, if we as a nation are blessed, this time next year will see the gun carriage in its longest period of semi retirement.  Let us hope that it is much longer than that 26 years.

{Queen Victoria to Edward VII = 9 years; Edward VII to George V as above; George V to George VI = 16 years; George VI to Winston Churchill = 13 years; Churchill to Mountbatten as above}.


Yesterday, apart from myself, there was just one coffin bearer present, namely Chris Ray, formerly Williams, this despite many attempts over the internet to alert other bearers of the 25th anniversary get together.  I know of the men's disappointment in not getting the proverbial medal for their efforts, and they share that disappointment with me, a disappointment I have mentioned above in the Epilogue. In a way, I remember them as 'my boys' for it befell to me, as is tradition in the Royal Navy, to be the leader of the bearers in its truest sense, manifest in that I gave all the orders for drill, for the organisation of their welfare during the rehearsals and subsequently for the funeral proper, and saw to it that their messing and accommodation needs were met to the full when in Army barracks in London:  indeed,  some of the bearers were senior rates [Chief Petty Officers] and messed in the same mess as me, so we were rarely apart. Now, in hindsight, I feel a little embarrassed that I didn't do more on their behalf for the award they richly deserved, especially as I have mentioned above, awards for other national funerals were ubiquitous.  

After leaving the Royal Navy as a warrant officer, I was determined that in my second career, I would succeed, where I clearly failed in my first. I spent nearly twenty years pre-occupied with my London business, that I set aside the relatively mundane side of my naval career, and even the disappointments were shelved in the blinkered pursuit of achieving success as a civilian.  Clearly there would be other, perhaps less focused men, who, on becoming civilians, would spend much time looking back to their naval days, disappointments including. It is a fact of human nature, that disappointments can often take centre position, and one could spend ones life living with such an event. There would be others who chose to make the navy their whole life career, and stayed on until reaching the age of 55, and, as some of my old special duties officer friends did, served until reaching age 60; indeed, I recently met one such old friend at the funeral  of another old officer friend, who was still employed in HMS Centurion as a 'Drafting Officer' - he now passed the age of 60! Such men  lived out their earlier memories in every day service life, and were rightly and properly awarded honours and medals. It is true that such honours would have probably recognised their latter service careers, but irrespective of the citation, they would nevertheless feel that the award set-the-record-straight and rectified any disappointment they themselves had experienced at any time in their naval career; a kind of panacea. 

With my success as a businessman came a measure of wealth and prosperity, if only at the end when the business was sold as a management buy-out. Now I have the time, and want, to reflect upon my life, or at least upon my first two careers. Although I retired in late 2002/early 2003, I have been preparing my mind for the 25th anniversary of the murder and funeral of Lord Mountbatten, hoping to use the event as a rekindling of my affection for the navy.  Lord Mountbattens funeral was, for the nation a sad but magnificent occasion, made the grander by the splendid way in which the Royal Navy performed its duties, but for us who were closely involved, it created a photograph album in our hearts which is ever opened and which NEVER closes. 

Until this visit, I had "made my peace" [long ago] with those in authority who chose not to reward us for our very SPECIAL DUTIES performed on that day.  Had there been a referendum in September 1979, I am completely and utterly confident that the nation would have voted in an 'award' with few [if any] defaulters. This visit has opened up my resting thoughts on this matter.

It was well known that the Army, specifically the Life Guards, were a little miffed that the Royal Navy had the lead parts in the funeral, what with the R.N.,  gun carriage and the R.N.,  bearer party, and as the story above tells one, they were awarded a small part at the very end of the ceremonial funeral by being allowed to transport the coffin from Westminster Abbey to Waterloo Station.  What is less clear [but should have been obvious - remember the Whale Island 'mafia' who isolated HMS Mercury's XL officer and replaced him with the Officer in Charge of the Whale Island Regulating School? - see text above in the main story] is that the R.N.,  Gunnery world - the R.N's.,  ceremonial experts [see below] - were miffed that Communicators [certainly not normally acknowledged in the navy as being experts in naval ceremony]  had the lead parts in the funeral, so much so, that at Romsey for the interment of the coffin, they were all Communicators. I believe now that if Lord Mountbatten had not expressly stated that he wanted Communicators to carry his coffin, the Whale Island 'mafia' would have taken over the whole show, lock, stock and barrel. As it was, they tolerated Communicators as protagonists, and accepted that they [the gunner's] were the 'spear carriers'. 

At the end of the ceremonial funeral, the four round brass weights mentioned above in the main text of the story and which were engraved on top with the details of the funeral etc., were given to gunnery officers, as mementoes of their part played in the funeral. Whilst it is true that their part was of huge significance, none was a match for the significance of the bearer party, particularly that of my part as leader of the bearer party - remember that the commissioned officer attached to the bearers with the title 'officer in charge bearers', is a ceremonial role only, in which he follows the coffin on its state journey, but doesn't direct or issue orders for the movement of the coffin. Perhaps naturally, I am left to wonder whether or not my officer got one of these weights [which to you as readers is a lump of brass, but to me, it would have been a lump of gold, such is its significance], he being very much part of the Whale Island 'mafia'.

Whilst I was further disappointed for myself upon hearing this news, I am doubly embarrassed that I did nothing [within my very limited powers] to seek rewards for my bearers, and I am duly ashamed.  However, I am old and bold enough to recognise the 'officer and us' relationship within the navy, but strangely, it comes hard now, especially when I have surpassed so many of the officers of my time in everything but name, and, of course 'MEDALS'. 

With lasting regrets to you, the London Bearers, whose cause for recognition I failed to see through.

[or are they?]
I received the following email which is worthy of a mention on this page. Thank you Paul for taking the time to write. As you say, although we were one and the same [gun carriage crew and bearer party] our training, experiences and duties were quite different. 

From :  Paul Snowball <>
Sent :  14 September 2004 21:45:26
To :
Subject :  Mountbattens Funeral
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Dear Mr Dykes,
I only discovered your site today and have to say it brought back many poignant memories of that day in 1979.
I was a member of the Gun Carriage crew and it was fascinating to read the account of the bearers training which, to us, was a mystery.
One further event you may not be aware of happened after you, the bearers and the coffin had entered the abbey. At that point the rear drags were open and the front drags were about turned with caps off, Cdr Trickey then, for some reason, gave the order to about turn which was out of sequence as the order (of the orders) should have been 'On Caps' then 'Rear Drags close the ranks' then 'about turn'. We were so ingrained in our training and the expectance of the routine no-one about turned, instead and without any further orders, everyone on capped, pause 2, 3, rear drags closed the ranks 2, 3, then we about turned.
Something else that happened was prior to the funeral commenced, the gun carriage itself was held at the Royal Mews, when we, the carriage crew arrived at the mews we had some time to wait before being formed up, the staff at the mews were gracious and kind enough to open up the mews which allowed us to wander around all the great carriages and othe carriage paraphenalia of the mews which I found very touching.
On a more amusing note, the army chefs at Pirbright severely rationed all the matelots to one sausage only at breakfast, even to the point of checking our plates at the end of the line, not knowing matelots, they didn't think to check our pussers plastic mugs which we discovered could hold at least three sausages!
Kind Regards,
Paul J. Snowball ex LWEM(R)

Hello again.  Today is Saturday the 1st April 2006 and I have just received an email from one of our Canadian friends.  I think it fitting, worthy and relevant that Andy's email is printed here with the attachments thereto.  I am grateful to you Andy for your valuable input.  Thank you. This is the URL to the Admiral Mountbatten web site 134 Admiral Mountbatten RCSCC - Home Page

From: "Andy McCullough" <>
Date: Sat, 01 Apr 2006 09:26:28 +0000

Mr. Dykes,

I recently became cognizant of the your excellent Admiral Mountbatten funeral site, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  BRAVO ZULU on it and your site.

Although a long time Canadian Naval Reserve Officer, two months after his assassination I had the honour of being appointed Commanding Officer of the Sea Cadet Corps named for the Admiral,  Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps ADMIRAL MOUNTBATTEN.  The Corps is located in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.

I never had the privilege of meeting the Admiral, but the Corps Commanding Officer and the past CO both were part of the group that hosted him when he flew to Sudbury to visit his Corps in 1975 and they both attended his funeral.

In their absence, as XO of the Corps, I was given the responsibility of organizing a memorial parade and ceremony for the various military units in the Sudbury area.  All went well except for a small (but to me major) SNAFU!  The Sea Cadet band had not gotten together to practice since the previous spring and had a few new members and were missing some seniors who were not back in town yet.  As we were marching through the streets of Sudbury on this solemn occasion all of a sudden I realized that the band was playing two tunes that they used when marching with the local militia unit, The Irish Regiment of Canada.  Although their rendition of "When Irish Eyes Are Shining" and "My Wild Irish Rose" were both well played, I had a hard time explaining to the Band officer that these tunes were perhaps inappropriate on this occasion!

For your information, I attach a scan of the program we used on the visit of the Admiral to Sudbury in 1975, plus the one we used in 1979.

Ready Aye!

Andy McCullough

Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge


    During my email association with Andy, I had cause to ask a few questions of Sudbury people, and true to form, they were more than willing to help me. One of them was the webmaster of Sudbury's Navy League and what follows is a link to their site.  I recommend a visit Navy League Sudbury Main Home Page.

James Adams, who also lives in Canada sent this little article.

Dear Mr. Dykes,

Boy, how the memories flood back, having visited your website and read about the Lord Mountbatten ceremonials.


On the 25th of August 1979, I was a Junior Technician in the middle of servicing the radar at RAF Benson, when I received a call to report to the guardroom immediately. We were whisked away on a bus to Eastleigh Airport to prepare to receive Lord Mountbatten. The only problem was, we had rehearsed carrying a coffin from a VC10 for over two years in preparation for the Duchess of Windsor passing away. The day we were to get to for the ceremonial, we were told they had decided to send a Hercules instead of the VC10. I don't remember who suggested it, but we went to a local dairy and did carries down their ramp, before leaving for Eastleigh. In the end that part of the ceremonial went fine until we stepped onto the tarmac. As the only original member of the team, I was on the front RH side giving commands and keeping everyone in step. The second my foot hit the tarmac, a gust of wind whipped the Union Jack across my face and over my shoulder, I could not see a thing. I had to ask the rookie airman on my left to take over, and guide us to the hearse while I kept the cadence. We made it ok, but it was just one of those fluke things that happen.


While I served 12 years in the RAF, I was stationed at many places around the world. Among these were RAF Uxbridge, RAF Gan, HQ Eastlant, HMS Warrior/RAF Northwood, 38 Group TCW RAF Benson, HMS Terror (ANZUK Forces) Singapore, RAF Henlow, RAF Locking (Radar training), and the last 5 years at RAF Benson.


Two weeks before I was due to leave RAF Gan, I got a call to be at the Hittadu jetty in 20 minutes in my best Kakis as an RAF Launch was coming to pick up three of us. To our surprise we were to have an informal meeting with HM Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip and Lord Mountbatten. 


My meeting with Lord Mountbatten was something I won't forget; he made such a lasting impression on me. It was all the sadder that I had the honour of being one of his pallbearers at Eastleigh. You are fortunate to have had some form of recognition for your efforts; all I have to show is a faded newspaper cutting with HRH Prince Charles and HRH Prince Philip behind me.



Not only is it pleasing to know that people still read this and other of my web pages, this one alone covering a British historical event of great prominence of some 37 years ago, but it is doubly pleasing when people who actually took part, bother to contact me to tell me of their involvement all these years on. This month a man called DEREK PORTER contacted me by email. He was a young cavalryman back then serving in the resplendent Life Guards, but his duties were actually at Westminster Abbey as a dismounted trooper. He kept a diary over the period 3rd to 5th September, and those three pages are replicated here.  They show not only his duties and the routines associated with them, but his sheer pride at have been selected to line the narrow access from the Broad Sanctuary outer gates of this great national shrine,  to the Great West Door of the Abbey as the Guard of Honour, through which all pagentry and personnel from the highest to the humble passes en-route to their appointed place. As Derek says, a person standing in his position saw close-up, all members of the royal family and the Mountbatten family, as well as tens upon tens of world political leaders and foreign royals. He was in his enviable position throughout the coming and going of these many VIP's, and he readily saw the privilege of being selected for his role. He starts off by giving us an insight into what Lord Mountbatten was doing in 1978 by showing us a picture of the Life Guards at their summer camp [Stoney Castle, Pirbright, Surrey]. Lord Louis was made Colonel of the Life Guards in 1965 and Gold Stick-in-Waiting, and took much pleasure in being actively involved with the Household Cavalry in all their duties, ceremonial or active fighting soldiers. In this picture [which, no doubt few have seen before] we see the Colonel visiting the Summer Camp. Derek proudly declares his position in the scene as being the soldier left foreground nearest to the camera.

Next to that Guard of Honour.



Derek's position is on the right as one enters the Abbey, the middle of five Life Guards. The Guard of Honour comprises of his group [on the right] and the marines and sailors over at the rear of the picture on the left. Standing in front of these men are the Pall Bearers who had marched with the field gun from the Queen's Chapel at St James' Palace, either side of the coffin. They were very senior officers of the British Armed Forces plus an Indian and an American admiral. When the coffin [and its bearers] and the pall bearers were not in camera shot, members of the Guard of Honour stood directly next to the mourners and VIP's entering and leaving the Abbey.


Now to the horse 'Dolly' which figured largely in the funeral procession. First a naval photographers picture showing Dolly being led by Lance Corporal Nicklin.



and then a commercial photograph



Finally in Derek's submission comes his diary entries for the 28th August,  3rd, 4th and 5th of September 1979, these taken direct from his diary of over thirty seven years ago. Each picture you see is a thumbnail so click on each individually to see full size pages. The 28th August 1979 is shown because that is the day when Derek's regiment [The Life Guards] were summoned to their barracks to prepare for their role in the royal funeral. The day before [the 27th], was the day when the whole world learned of this dreadful atrocity!




Added 15th June 2017


Sadness's can be measured in so many different ways!


In the last few weeks in the UK, the visual media has been hard pushed to keep pace with the dreadful occurrences which have brought mayhem and much great sadness to many people, perhaps many thousands when one considers the families of those involved with the loss of love ones.  Here, I include the Manchester terrorist suicide bomber [perhaps the worse of all incidences, as it targeted the young - a heinous and despicable crime by any definition - the London Bridge/Borough Market brutal and bloody murders - the sicko from Cardiff who tried to destroy an innocent group of Muslim males leaving a north London Mosque - the sickening attack and murder of those walking over Westminster Bridge, and subsequently that attack bringing death to the Palace of Westminster when a brave London bobby was slain in the line of his duty.  Add to this, the dreadful loss of life in the fire which engulfed and totally destroyed Grenfell House in North Kensington London, home to hundreds of people, denied the few bits and pieces they owned, and seemingly, paying rent in good faith that their humble home was fit for purpose: manifestly, it wasn't!  How desperately sad is that? Whilst we don't know what caused the fire in the first place, its start and that it destroyed the 28 story building in unbelievably quick time, is, as I write, the subject of a criminal public enquiry. Those responsible should surely be brought to justice, as those who lost everything including the lives of their nearest and dearest, should surely be protected by the law, fully compensated and not just in cash terms, and by the Government and its agencies and not by caring civilian onlookers which has largely been the case to date.


So, you may be wondering why I am adding this snippet?


Well during this media coverage, what might have happened in quieter less frenetic times, didn't, except for the mention in the main-stream newspapers!


That dear lady, Patricia, Countess Mountbatten of Burma, eldest daughter of Lord Louis Mountbatten, friend, confidante  of the Royal Family and related to both the Queen and to Prince Philip, passed away today at the age of 93. She saw much sadness in her life namely the premature death of her mother Edwina at the beginning of 1960 when Patricia was only 36; the murder of her son Nicholas [a twin] when he was 14, the murder of her mother-in-law and the murder of her father all in August 1979 when she and her husband escaped the grim reaper sent by the IRA assassin but sustained massive injuries in the same incident;  the death of her younger sister Pamela; the death of her husband Lord Brabourne amongst others.


She was a wise and caring aristocrat and she will be much missed.  RIP maam.