Tim Worsley watched Monday’s state funeral for Queen Elizabeth II with particular interest.
Worsley came to Canada from England more than a decade ago and, with his wife Tracy, owns the British Banger Company on Elizabeth Street. But back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he was a soldier in the British Army, serving with the Coldstream Guards in Northern Ireland and the Falkland Islands.
He also served a tour as a guardsman at Buckingham Palace and several other royal residences.
As such, he is probably the Okotokian with the closest personal connection to the monarchy.
“I was very young and quite naïve at the time,” he said. “I didn’t really know what I had signed up for. However, once I came to appreciate the significance of what I was doing, I realized what an honour it was. It gave me a lot of pride.”
The duty of a guardsmen is to protect the household and the royal family members who are in residence.
“I had the chance to see most of them up close but never talked with them,” Worsley said.
“Our routine was to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning and go to our assigned location. Each shift was 24 hours – four hours on, four hours off during the day, and two on/two off after 8 p.m. It was a long day by any standard.”
Worsley’s uniform included the distinctive, tall bearskin hat.
“Each guard’s uniform is custom-tailored,” he said. “You’re allotted a set of red tunics for the summer and a long gray coat for the winter, along with the bearskin hat. When you go on duty, you sign your uniform out, and at the end of your public duty you sign it back in again. You are not allowed to keep it.”
Are they hot?
“Yes, the bearskin hats are quite heavy and many of the public events take place in very warm weather. Guardsmen occasionally faint during the ceremony because the bearskin is so hot. The tunics however are not too bad.”
Though Worsley never had the opportunity to participate in a once-in-a-lifetime event, he does recall one annual ceremony fondly.
“The Irish Guards, Coldstream Guards, Scotch Guards, Welsh Guards and Grenadier Guards all have colours on their flags, representing battles they’ve won,” he said. “Each year a different battalion presents and honours its colours in a ceremony known as ‘The Trooping of the Colours.’
“It is an absolute honour to be part of it.
"It takes place in the spring, and I still watch it every year religiously. Having taken part in it, I know all the parts of the ceremony and how they all fit together.”
Worsley said that he was personally saddened by the Queen’s passing.
“I thought the Queen was a marvellous woman,” he said. “I’m a very private person when it comes to mourning and things like that, but I thought she was a marvellous head of state and was absolutely staunch in what she did.”