In an emotional farewell to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 39 members of the Australian Defence Force, along with troops from Canada and New Zealand, led the Queen’s funeral procession through the streets of London.
CAPTION: The Commonwealth contingent, made up of Australian, Canadian and New Zealand military personnel, marches on the procession route during the Queen’s state funeral in London. Story by Lieutenant Commander John Thompson and Lieutenant Anthony Martin. Photo by Sergeant Jarrod McAneney.
Leading Seaman Cameron Green, from Australia’s Federation Guard, said he was nervous, excited and humbled by the experience.
“We worked so hard together over the past week to make sure we got this right. I’d like to think the Queen would have been pleased,” Leading Seaman Green said.
The contingent took up its place of honour after the Queen’s funeral service at Westminster Abbey, which was attended by heads of state from across the world, including Australia’s Governor-General, General (retd) David Hurley, and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
Senior representatives of ADF organisations, with which the Queen had a special relationship, as well as the Head of Australian Defence Staff in London, Brigadier Grant Mason, also attended the service.
“Being in the Abbey for the service was a deeply moving experience for all of us and one that I doubt we will ever forget,” Brigadier Mason said.
The Brigadier, along with the senior officers, took their place in the march, ahead of the State Gun Carriage carrying the Queen’s coffin, as an estimated audience of 4 billion people around the world watched.
As the 3000 military personnel taking part were gathering at Wellington Barracks, Captain Joshua Downs felt the weight of history.
CAPTION: The Australian Defence Force contingent taking part in Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II state funeral at Wellington Barracks, London. Photo by Corporal John Solomon.
“There was palpable electricity among all of us. We knew this would be a special moment in time,” Captain Downs said.
Leading Aircraftwoman Carla Russell said the gravity of the situation didn’t hit her until the Prince and Princess of Wales made a special visit to the Pirbright Army Centre last Friday to thank the Commonwealth forces for being a part of the funeral procession.
“Meeting the couple was a great honour and they were so generous with their time. But when Prince William told us that he felt the Queen would be watching on, it really struck me that that this was real,” Leading Aircraftwoman Russell said.
The 39 ADF personnel trained every day from the moment they arrived, including a full dress rehearsal in the early hours of Thursday morning.
The Australians joined a Commonwealth platoon of more than 100 personnel from Canada and New Zealand. The Commonwealth contingent was led by a mounted detachment of Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The contingent slow marched along the route of almost five kilometres with officers’ drawn swords reversed.
The Australian contingent represented each of the services, coming from Australia’s Federation Guard and the special relationship organisations, where the Queen had held Honorary military appointments.
The Queen served as:
- Colonel-in-Chief of:
- Royal Australian Engineers
- Royal Australian Infantry Corps
- Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps
- Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps
- Captain-General of the Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery
- Air Commodore-in-Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force – Reserve
Additionally, all vessels within the Royal Australian Navy were recognised as Her Majesty’s Australian Ships.
The Commander of the Australian contingent for the march, Commodore Ray Leggatt, paid tribute to those taking part.
“The Queen was such an inspiring person with a deep affection for the Australian Defence Force and will be greatly missed. The men and women who marched today honoured Her Majesty’s memory and completed their final duty to the Queen in an exceptional manner,” Commodore Leggatt said.
“They have done Australia proud.”