All regiments involved in funeral for former prime minister had link to south Atlantic conflict
Lady Thatcher wanted her funeral to have a Falklands theme, and though no details were thrashed out before her death, the Ministry of Defence had a good idea which units would have to be involved when the planning for the ceremony began.
All of the regiments taking part played an important role during the conflict in the south Atlantic – a reflection of the fact that their sacrifices, and successes, underpinned the former prime minister’s significant military legacy.
Two of those who served in the Falklands were chosen to command the pallbearers: Major Nick Mott, from the Welsh Guards, and his brother Garrison Sergeant Major Bill Mott, who both survived the attack on the Sir Galahad, the supply ship and troop carrier which was attacked as it prepared to unload soldiers in Port Pleasant. Forty-eight soldiers and seamen died; many were rescued from the burning hull by helicopters.
The Motts were positioned to the left and right behind the gun carriage carrying Thatcher’s coffin as it made its way to St Paul’s Cathedral behind the band of the Royal Marines, one of three to take part in the ceremony.
The Motts were in charge of co-ordinating the team of 10 pallbearers; only eight actually carried the coffin, but two others were required to carry the caps of those with the weight on their shoulders.
None of the pallbearers served in the conflict. Aged 19, Guardsman Sam Williams was the youngest of the group, 11 years younger than the oldest, Lance Sergeant Paul Quayle, whose father fought in the campaign.
All of the pallbearers were chosen from units that served in the Falklands, including the Royal Marines, the Royal Artillery, the Scots Guards, the Welsh Guards, the Parachute Regiment and the Gurkhas.
On the steps of the cathedral to greet the coffin was a “lining party” made up of 18 serving soldiers and officers, and a contingent of veterans from the Royal Hospital Chelsea.
In total, more than 800 military personnel were involved in the ceremony, most of them lining the streets along the route. Defence officials said the scale reflected the involvement of all three services in battles with names that will jog memories for anyone who lived through the 1982 campaign.
The MoD said it chose the Scots Guards and Gurkhas because of their fighting at the battle of Tumbledown, the ridge close to the capital, Port Stanley; 40 Commando Regiment Royal Marines were among the first troops ashore and secured the beachhead at San Carlos; 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, was involved in attacks at Ajax Bay and on Wireless Ridge; the Royal Engineers’ bomb disposal operators cleared routes, mines and booby traps; 4th Regiment Royal Artillery fired more than 12,000 shells at enemy positions in the final 12 hours of the conflict; and the Welsh Guards lost more than 30 men and suffered 70 wounded in the attack on the Sir Galahad.
Among the senior military figures to attend was the widow of the soldier whose bravery came to epitomise the close-quarter fighting during the conflict – Colonel “H” Jones, the commander of the 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment.
He died during the battle of Goosegreen, attempting to overrun an entrenched machine gun position. His wife Sara was expected to be among the mourners.