Heroes from all walks of British life will join world leaders and royals at the Queen’s State funeral.
NHS medics, emergency responders and troops honoured for their service and bravery will lead a procession after tomorrow’s funeral service as the Queen’s coffin is taken on a final tour of the capital.
The two-mile procession will march to the rhythm of artillery guns fired every 60 seconds and the booming toll of Big Ben.
Among those chosen to lead the procession is May Parsons, a nurse who administered the world’s first Covid-19 jab. She said she was ‘stunned’ when she received a call asking her to represent all NHS staff at the funeral.
It comes two months after the 42-year-old from the Philippines, along with NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard, met the Queen at Windsor Castle to accept the George Cross on behalf of all NHS workers for service during the pandemic.
‘I am overwhelmed – it is such a privilege to be asked and an unexpected honour,’ said Ms Parsons, a matron at University Hospital Coventry, who made history in December 2020 when she vaccinated 90-year-old grandmother Margaret Keenan. Ms Parsons, who moved to Britain in 2003, said: ‘It is a sad day of mourning that the Queen has gone, but also a celebration of her.
May Parsons and NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard met the Queen at Windsor Castle to accept the George Cross on behalf of all NHS workers
Colour Sergeant Johnson Beharry was the first living soldier in nearly half a century to receive a Victoria Cross for his heroic actions in Iraq
Major Pete Norton GC is a bomb disposal expert who lost his left leg and part of his left arm in a blast near Baghdad in 2005
‘Someone told me that it will be raining on Monday and I said that is probably for the best because I am probably going to be crying a lot.’
Also in the procession will be Jim Beaton, 79, a former royal bodyguard awarded the Victoria Cross after he was shot three times as he stopped a crazed kidnapper from snatching Princess Anne in 1974. He later served as the Queen’s Police Officer until his retirement in 1992. ‘It was a privilege to work for Her Majesty. I have many very fond memories,’ he said last night.
Colour Sergeant Johnson Beharry, who became the first living soldier in nearly half a century to receive a Victoria Cross for his heroic actions in Iraq, will also join the funeral procession.
He saved members of his unit, the 1st Battalion Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, from ambushes during the Iraq War in 2004, exposing himself to enemy fire.
CSgt Beharry, 43, has worn his Victoria Cross on only three occasions – for the Queen, at his wedding and when he met Harry Patch, the last British First World War veteran. He has said he is overcome by guilt when wearing it because so many of his comrades were killed.
He said he was ‘deeply saddened’ by the Queen’s death, adding: ‘She was a role model and an inspiration to many.’
The procession will also feature Major Pete Norton, a bomb disposal expert who lost his left leg and part of his left arm in a blast near Baghdad in 2005. Despite his injuries, he continued leading his team, fearing further devices, and refused to be evacuated until he was sure all personnel knew of the danger.
Jim Beaton, the royal bodyguard awarded the Victoria Cross after he was shot three times as he stopped a crazed kidnapper from snatching Princess Anne in 1974
Lifelong royalist Ella Marks was perched on her father’s shoulders to witness King George VI’s coronation in 1937
Maj Norton, 59, was awarded the George Cross and met the Queen a number of times at lunches for the Victoria and George Cross Association.
He said: ‘She used to call us “my boys”. She had such warmth. She was a consummate professional.’
Lifelong royalist Ella Marks was perched on her father’s shoulders to witness King George VI’s coronation in 1937. She was on the Mall at his funeral in 1952, and slept out all night near Buckingham Palace to watch the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II the following year.
Now the 88-year-old will be among the invited guests at the Queen’s funeral at Westminster Abbey tomorrow. ‘The cycle is complete. I am speechless,’ she said.
Mrs Marks was invited because she was among those awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours this year in recognition of decades of charity work and volunteering.
She said: ‘It is a huge honour and privilege to be able to be there to pay my respects.’