John Walmsley, a King’s Company sergeant stationed at Victoria Barracks, Windsor, at the time, accompanied the coffin of King George VI. He joined the Grenadier Guards in 1944 and served until 1967
Seventy years after the death of King George VI, a 95-year-old former Grenadier Guard has recalled his key role in the monarch’s funeral.
John Walmsley, a King’s Company sergeant stationed at Victoria Barracks, Windsor, at the time, accompanied the King’s coffin.
Aged just 25 at the time, John was in charge of an escort detachment when news of the King’s death at Sandringham on February 6, 1952 broke.
He was part of the guard that accompanied the coffin from a Windsor station, to the castle and to St George’s Chapel.
Now a resident of the Royal Star & Garter care home for veterans in High Wycombe, Bucks, John recalls: ‘We escorted the coffin, walking either side of the gun carriage, from the station to Windsor Castle itself. same and towards St George’s Chapel, ready for his burial. I had 15 men on one side, 15 on the other and that was my little detachment.
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“The steps to St. George’s Chapel are very steep and the coffin was lined with lead, so the guys carrying it had to practice beforehand with weights inside, to make sure they were ready,” added John.
“The coffin was carried up the steps of the chapel by the four men on each side.
These men were strong and burly, but the coffin was very heavy, and as they climbed the steep steps, it tilted a lot, and the boys struggled with it. So the warrant officer behind had to push the back of the coffin, just pushing it forward, up with the boys.
The Royal Star and the Garter)
“We also had to adjust our walk to the pace of the men carrying it. When the coffin entered the chapel, that was the end of the responsibility for us.
John joined the Grenadier Guards in 1944 and served until 1967, attaining the rank of Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant. He served in post-war Germany, Palestine and Malaysia.
He also participated in the Queen’s coronation ceremony on June 2, 1953.
The Royal Star and Garter charity provides care for veterans and their partners living with disability or dementia at its three homes in Solihull, Surbiton and High Wycombe.