The Regiment’s ties with Prince Philip began in 1953 when he was appointed Colonel-in-Chief of the 8th Kings Royal Irish Hussars. Whenever the Colonel visited, he was visiting friends; friends built up over a 68-year history of close association with the Regiment. He was always interested and engaging, and his passion was to speak with the members of the Regiment, its soldiers, their wives, husbands, and children: it shone through. It is impossible to put into words the sheer commitment and support he has afforded The Queen’s Royal Hussars. As the Commanding Officer, it was, therefore, a privilege and an honour to be part of his Funeral and represent the Regiment past and present. Our commitment, scaled back due to current restrictions, was a Guidon Party, led by the RSM, WO1 (RSM) Gerry, supported by WO2 Walker, SSgt Midgley and SSgt Hodge. There was a small marching detachment of LCpl Clerkin, LCpl Clarke and LCpl Mead Lamont.
Our commitment to the Funeral, initiated under Operation FORTH BRIDGE, involved us forward mounting to Pirbright for a week of rehearsals with the Household Division’s drill instructors from the Army School of Ceremonial. Although the parade was made as simple as possible, there were many moving parts and elements from all three Services that needed to be integrated. The instruction from the CSgts, however, was pitched perfectly and The Queen’s Royal Hussars were immaculate throughout allowing the drill instructors to focus upon the RAF! In the evenings we polished and polished, and then polished some more. The sense of occasion made the whole week a real team effort from all those who would be on parade: the Grenadier Guards helping us with our boots and medals; the REME ensuring our spurs stayed in, and the SCOTS lending us their tailor for the final alterations. In the background, the Adjutant and those members of the Regiment back in Tidworth worked tirelessly to support us, keeping us updated on the plan and sending spare uniforms to Pirbright to ensure on the day we would be immaculate.
The day of the funeral started early with a hearty breakfast before we finished off polishing our brass buttons. We boarded the coaches and arrived at the assembly area at 1100 hrs and waited for almost three hours before marching to our start point on the Long Walk. As we were held at our start-point I can only liken the feeling to the last moments in a FOB before going out on an operation in Afghanistan or Iraq. A heightened sense of anticipation and awareness, a few nerves, but knowing we were well trained and ready for what lay ahead. Once the band of the Scots Guards started playing, we marched behind them for almost 1km up the Long Walk to Windsor Castle. The Regiment’s Guidon Party led the Army’s Guidon and Colour Parties, and the marching detachment led those Regiments and Corps who had a Special Relationship with the Colonel-in-Chief.
We marched into the Quadrangle, aware that the eyes of the nation were on us and our chests swelled with pride as we represented The Queen’s Royal Hussars. After marching around the grass and halting beside and in front of the State Entrance (the part of the parade with the most risk), we turned to our left ready for a Royal Salute followed by a Reverse Arms. Special mention must go to the Guidon Party who, despite facing the sun and being front and centre in front of the hearse remained rigid throughout. Similarly, the marching detachment was incredibly professional holding their rifles in either a Royal salute or a Reverse Arms for over 27 minutes. This had proved a challenge for all those on parade during the rehearsals, but LCpl Mead Lamont asserted afterwards that the television cameras and adrenalin in his body meant he “could have done it for hours”. We stayed at attention until the minute’s silence, after which we marched off the parade and back down the Long Walk.
Brigadier Ian Mortimer, representing the Colonel of the Regiment, was a Pall Bearer and accompanied the Land Rover hearse, which had been designed by the Colonel-in-Chief, for the final short journey from the State Entrance of Windsor Castle to St George’s Chapel, followed by the Royal Family, on foot, and Her Majesty The Queen.
The parade was genuinely memorable, and I hope the pride and professionalism of The Queen’s Royal Hussars were evident for all to see as we said farewell to our Colonel-in-Chief. A very sad but extremely proud day. Once again, it was a privilege and an honour for all of us to have been part of it.