The Daily Telegraph

The pall bearers embody the profession­alism of the Forces

- Richard Dannatt General the Lord Dannatt is a former Chief of the General Staff

‘Quite properly we grieve; we pause and then equally properly we celebrate our new sovereign’s coronation’

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

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

A lead-lined coffin is very heavy and manoeuvrin­g their precious load up and down steps, on and off gun carriages and catafalque­s, in and out of vehicles – all under the constant gaze of billions on television, not to mention the concerned scrutiny of His Majesty The King, is no easy task. Even when the cameras are switched off and the final private service of committal is being held at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, their duty will not be over.

Deep in the Royal Vault under the chapel, the pallbearer­s will have one final unseen duty — to move the late Queen’s body to its final resting place. Once all is complete, then these young men too can relax and reflect on their very difficult job, extremely well done.

For me, an abiding image of the last 10 days will be a cameo in Westminste­r Hall. I saw a Royal Marine veteran come slowly down the steps. As he drew level to the coffin, he dropped on to one knee, crossed himself and then, standing up to his full height, smacked up the smartest salute that the parade ground at Lympstone would be likely to see. He then walked on.

Walking on is what we all must do now. We have a new King; we have a new Prime Minister. There are many challenges ahead. However, of one thing I am sure: the detailed planning for the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III is well under way when, once again, we will see the pride and profession­alism of the British Armed Forces on display. We mourn our late sovereign’s death; quite properly we grieve; we give thanks; we pause and then equally properly we celebrate our new sovereign’s coronation. The bands will march down the Mall, the harnesses of the Household Cavalry will jangle, the monarch will enter the Abbey and St Edward’s crown will be placed on his head. God save the King.

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