Royal Navy personnel from the most junior sailor to the highest-ranked female officer have described their “honour, privilege and duty” to be involved in the Queen’s funeral procession.
Up to 1,500 sailors are set to take part in the state funeral, which will include representatives from all three armed forces.
During rehearsals at HMS Collingwood in Fareham, Hampshire, planners and parade staff spoke of their pride at being chosen to take part in the major event.
Commander Steve Elliott, a staff weapon engineer officer, previously commanded the first Navy detachment in 375 years to perform guard duties at St James’s Palace, Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London and Windsor Castle.
His immediate predecessor in that role was Sir Walter Raleigh.
The royal family is incredibly important to the Royal Navy
Commander Steve Elliott
Cdr Elliott, who will be part of the gun carriage contingent, told the PA news agency: “I was privileged and fortunate enough to command the detachment that took on public duties in 2017.
“Now I have been privileged to be selected as the second in command for the Royal Navy contingent supporting Her Majesty’s funeral.
“I will have the sombre honour of marching in front of the gun carriage carrying Her Majesty’s body on her final journey.
“Something perhaps a little more poignant for me is it will be my last action in uniform after 32 years’ service before I actually leave the Royal Navy.”
He added: “The royal family is incredibly important to the Royal Navy, our relationship is second to none. There is a fondness between monarch, whether that be Queen Elizabeth or King Charles, and us which will not change and is fundamental and central to everything we do.
“They were Her Majesty’s ships, they are now His Majesty’s ships; that connection is strong and powerful from the most junior sailor to the most senior officer.”
Rear Admiral Jude Terry, director people and training, who is responsible for the Navy’s funeral planning and is the Navy’s first female admiral, said: “I know that for everyone who is a part of it, it is an absolute honour and privilege.
“For everybody within the parade, they will have their moment of reflection and honour to be able to have served her, as well as a moment of sadness. We will all feel a great deal of emotion; she will have meant so much to us all in very different ways, all of us will have been touched by her presence in some way.
“And then also as a reflection and a look-forward, how do we carry on and serve HM the King as we go forward in our careers, and that too comes with an almost desire to do the best for him as we can.”
She’s our Commander-in-Chief, we want to do our best for her in her last moments here, and we want to do our very best for our new Commander-in-Chief, King Charles
Captain Catherine Jordan
Captain Catherine Jordan, who is responsible for the state ceremonial team, said: “She’s our Commander-in-Chief, we want to do our best for her in her last moments here, and we want to do our very best for our new Commander-in-Chief, King Charles.”
Able Seaman Murray Kerr, 20, from Ayr, said: “It’s a great honour to be a part of Her Majesty’s funeral; it’s a great responsibility as well. This is going to be the biggest state event this century and I don’t think there will be another event like it.
“There is a massive amount of pride, responsibility and duty, a sense of duty – this is one of things I signed on to do and knew I would have to do.
“I am going to be lining the streets of London to help mark out the route the procession will take to Westminster Abbey.
“It will be eyes on the procession, so we will have our backs to the crowd and it is very much us paying respects to the procession, Her Majesty and the royalty and everyone who follows on in the guard of honour.”
Able Seaman Ryan Howarth, 25, whose father was a major in the Army and who met the Queen at a royal garden party, said: “I feel very honoured. I didn’t think I would ever get to do something like this in my career, and to do it after eight months of being in is very shocking. I wasn’t expecting to do something like this but (am) deeply honoured about it.
“My grandma recently passed away this year while I was doing my training so I never got to attend her funeral. I am not saying this is her funeral but I probably have emotions come up on the day.”