During the funeral for Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth ll on September 19, 2022, Warrant Officer Dwayne Pettitt was, as he confesses, “concentrating on not falling down during the procession.”
Thank goodness, he didn’t stumble once. It pays to be focused.
WO Pettitt, WOC Duty WO, 17 Operations Support Squadron, along with Major Colin Malmstrom, Staff Officer – Royal Canadian Air Force Reserve Training Management 2 Canadian Air Division, were part of the contingent of 92 Canadians who participated in the funeral.
In total, approximately 5,949 United Kingdom Armed Forces personnel took part in ceremonial duties throughout the course of Operation London Bridge, the codename for the state funeral of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, notes online information from Merco Press.
Approximately 175 members of Armed Forces personnel from Commonwealth nations took part in the ceremonial activity.
“This was a once in a lifetime event of enormous proportion and I am humbled to have been a part of this history,” Major Malmstrom said in an email to The Voxair.
“On this very solemn occasion, it was an absolute privilege and honour to participate in the funeral procession.”
WO Pettitt was first notified about the opportunity to participate in such a funeral in February 2021.
“It came in an email to the Reserve Flight members looking for a certain number of people,” he said. “They had contacted me in February 2020, and I never put my name in. I put it in last year after they solicited me again as a possible candidate. They reached out to me that I was a successful candidate and that I was a backup candidate to perform in Operation London Bridge.
“They wanted people readily available just in case something happened. I was the backup and so I was supposed to cover primary in 2023. I got a phone call on the Friday after she passed away on the Thursday afternoon saying that the primary couldn’t go and wondering if I could go.”
The CAF members were all from the Flight Reserves across Canada, WO Pettitt said.
He and Major Malmstrom first flew to Ottawa where they met the rest of the contingent, then they all boarded an RCAF aircraft to London, England.
“We landed and got squared away for the night and began training the next morning,” WO Pettitt said.
The military personnel stayed outside of London at the Army Training Centre Pirbright.
“There was a large contingent of Commonwealth nations, which included Australia and New Zealand,” WO Pettitt observed.
“We were put into procession group one. There were seven procession groups. We practiced the march to replicate what it was going to be in London. The only time we were in London was at the dress rehearsal and for the actual parade.”
The day of the funeral, they boarded buses to Wellington Barracks in London at 2 am
It took a while to get all the procession groups, horses and bands organized, WO Pettitt said.
“We were the last to leave Wellington Barracks. People went in different directions some directly to the church,” he added.
“We marched off as other procession groups joined us. There were about 2000 troops in all, including from the Philippines.”
“I didn’t really get to see much of the actual funeral itself. I was at the back of the procession.”