General Sir Nick Carter, the Chief of the Defence Staff, was speaking after the final rehearsals for Prince Philip’s funeral – and many adaptations to the original plan, codenamed Forth Bridge, due to Covid protocols.
“It will reflect military precision and above all, I think, it will be a celebration of a life well-lived. It will also show, I think, how much the armed forces loved and respected him,” he said.
“I think he will be very much remembered in the armed forces for the interest he showed in us and, of course, the good humour, wit and empathy that he always had with all of us, particularly the rank and file.
“The military always have a great respect for people who have their values and standards and who indeed have shown great courage, and I think that, when we look back at his war record, that sense of courage and what he did is something all of us have great admiration for.”
He dismissed suggestions that the Armed Forces will be disappointed at the decision by the Royal family not to wear ceremonial military uniforms – in part to avoid embarrassing the Duke of Sussex who has flown in from Los Angeles for his grandfather’s final farewell.
“I think we would wish to do what the Royal family want to have done. We absolutely respect that,” he said.
Military duties were beginning early today with Philip’s coffin – covered with his personal standard and surmounted with his sword, naval cap and a wreath of flowers – being moved at 11am by a Bearer Party found by The Queen’s Company, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, from the private chapel to the inner hall of Windsor Castle.
By 2.15pm, the service detachments recognising Philip’s special military relationships will be in position in the Quadrangle, which will also be lined by the Household Cavalry and The Foot Guards.
The Band of the Grenadier Guards, of which Philip was Colonel for 42 years, will lead the procession to St George’s Chapel.
They will be followed by the Major General’s Party, and then the Service Chiefs, which will include the Chief of the Air Staff, Naval Staff and Defence Staff.
Philip had a distinguished career in the Royal Navy, and while he gave up active service in 1951, he remained closely connected to the military. His final official engagement came at Windsor Castle in July last year when he handed over his role of Colonel-in-Chief of The Rifles to the Duchess of Cornwall in a virtual ceremony due to Covid.
The coffin, transported from the castle to the chapel in a specially-modified Land Rover Philip helped to design, will be flanked by pallbearers drawn from the Duke’s special relationships – the Royal Marines, regiments, corps and air stations.
The route of the procession will be lined by representatives from the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, the Highlanders, 4th Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland and the RAF. Minute Guns will be fired by The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery and a Curfew Tower Bell will sound.
Prince Philip has been lauded as an exemplary leader of the Royal Marines for nearly 65 years from June 1953 until December 2017.
The tribute came from former commando John Burnett, now a Lib Dem peer. “Royal Marines have been deployed on operations almost continuously through his service as Captain General,” he said.
“He was a source of wise advice and encouragement. He was at ease when he was with us and he put everyone else at ease. He was a straight talker and he led by example with an indomitable spirit.
“His great qualities were hugely appreciated by all Royal Marines, including the many who are badged into the United Kingdom Special Forces.”