‘Overwhelming feeling of sadness’ as armed forces bid farewell

Michael Drummond, PA
·3 min read

Guns fired and a bell tolled as members of the armed forces bid farewell to the Duke of Edinburgh amid an “overwhelming feeling of sadness”.

Servicemen and servicewomen, their uniforms pristine, lined the road as the duke’s coffin was escorted through Windsor Castle on Saturday.

On the steps of St George’s Chapel they joined people across the country in a minute’s silence.

Duke of Edinburgh funeral
The Duke of Edinburgh’s coffin is carried into the chapel (Chris Jackson/PA)

Despite numbers of guests being severely curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the poignant service reflected the duke’s strong bond with the armed forces at every turn.

More than 700 members of the armed forces were in attendance to provide ceremonial support.

In many cases, personnel were recalled from Easter leave on the day of the duke’s death – and have been preparing for their participation in today’s funeral since last Saturday.

Philip enjoyed an active naval career between 1939 and 1951, and was a veteran of the Second World War.

Duke of Edinburgh funeral
The Duke of Edinburgh’s coffin, covered with his Personal Standard, is carried on the purpose built Land Rover Defender (Justin Tallis/PA)

In the lead-up to the funeral service, detachments drawn from units which had a link with Philip were positioned on the grass in the Quadrangle of Windsor Castle.

They bowed their heads in reflection while a military band played Jerusalem in the bright April sunshine.

Three sailors represented survey ship HMS Magpie – named after the only warship Prince Philip commanded during his 14-year Naval service.

Servicemen spoke fondly of the duke ahead of the funeral, praising him as an “absolutely amazing servant to this country”.

Soldiers in a variety of different roles appeared in a tribute video shared by the British Army.

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Gunner George McDonnell, from King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, said in the clip: “On Saturday, when we fire the guns, it’s going to be an overwhelming feeling of sadness, because that’s when I think it will hit us, why we are actually firing the guns.”

Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nicholas Carter, said: “His Royal Highness has been a great friend, inspiration and role model for the Armed Forces and he will be sorely missed.

“From all of us who serve today and who have served, thank you.”

Though he served in the Navy, the Duke of Edinburgh maintained close links with the whole armed forces, including with RAF Northolt station in west London.

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Group Captain Nick Worrall, Station Commander, praised the duke as a leader, a statesmen and the founder of the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.

He said: “From a Northolt perspective he is our Honorary Air Commodore, and so the team here in Northolt also feel a massive loss.

“Certainly as a leader of individuals: absolute inspiration, and he would be somebody that we’d absolutely highlight to individuals.”