Wednesday, 17 April 2013

She would have loved it

I'm a die hard Brit.  As an ex guardsman I took part in plenty of ceremonial events, but to be honest, when you are serving, they are a pain in the arse.  They are something that gets in the way of going on the piss the night before.  That was years ago though, now I love watching.  There is a great sense of national pride when watching our forces do their stuff.  This was summed up by the kind lady from the British Association of Journalists who let me shoot the funeral procession from the windows of her office in Fleet Street.  The Scots Guards were marching into position to do the street-lining when she remarked "You know, no one does it as good as us Brits, do they?"
No One does it like the Brits, do they?

I had heard gossip that the protesters were going to gather at Ludgate Circus on the funeral procession route.  As it happens, my pre arranged vantage point was about 200 yards away from them.  The crowds began lining the route in earnest around 1000hrs.  In some places on Fleet St, they were 6 or 7 deep.  The Old Bill were in their best dress uniforms, including white gloves and medals, nice to see instead of the high vis stuff we have become used to.

The gun carriage carrying the coffin was due at 1050.  Looking down at the crowds on the pavement opposite me, there were young, old, black, white, all sorts.  The protesters were kept at Ludgate Circus.  As the sound of the band which was leading the cortege approached, there was a noticeable silence fell over the crowd.  The protesters were still chanting their bile, but by now a line of cops in 'normal uniform' were lined up in front of them, just in case.

As the gun carriage and coffin passed by, there was a real 'hairs on the back of your neck stand up' moment.  The crowd were clapping, they carried on clapping as the coffin passed and managed to drown out the protesters.

The most emotional moment for me was when after the service in St Pauls ended, the gun carriage and escort of Royal Horse Artillery came past again,  where as before, the carriage carried the coffin, draped in the Union Flag, this time, the gun carriage was empty.  There was a finality to that moment!

F*ck Bobby Sands, he's dead!
A last word on the protesters.  99% of the placards I saw were carrying the logo of the Socialist Worker.  For those that don't know, this is a publication put out by The Socialist Workers Party.  At every protest I have covered, and there have been many, they have a trestle table set up well before the event, to try to flog this rag. They also supply hundreds of placards which no-one ever uses.  Those manning the table are usually elderly, well dressed folk sporting a cheeky wee line in zip up knitwear or plastic kaguls.  Whether it is a demo by the Congolese complaining about the west plundering the resources of the DRC, or a protest  by trans-gender Big Issue sellers claiming equal rights to  maternity pay, the SWP are there with copies of their papers to sell.  They have aways struck me as a sort of relatively harmless distant relative with Parkinsons disease, who would only be dangerous if he took to playing with power tools while unsupervised.  Today I learnt this is not the case.  The placards they had handed out referred to support for the miners (ok, fair point I suppose), The Falklands, and slimmer of the year 1981, Bobby Sands.  It seems that the SWP are upping the ante!  Time will tell.
Last Journey

Finally, Today will go down in history as the day we buried one of our greatest ever politicians. I am proud to have served as a soldier during her terms in office, and I am proud to have been there today to see her get the send off she  deserved.  R.I. P. Baroness Thatcher.

More photos on www.mitchell-images.com





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