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Monday, 8 April, 2002, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
'Father stood royal vigil, now it's my turn'
Lt Col Paddy Tabor (left)
Lt Col Tabor: "Dad says it's an enormous honour."

Used to accompanying the Royal Family during ceremonial occasions, the Household Cavalry and Royal Horse Artillery are now preparing for the sad duty of escorting the Queen Mother's coffin.

Lieutenant Colonel Paddy Tabor is readying himself to hold vigil over the coffin of the Queen Mother when she lies in state at Westminister Hall before Tuesday's funeral.

The cavalry officer has been given sage family advice about how to carry out this sad ceremonial duty.

Fifty years ago his father, Major General David Tabor, of Compton Abdale, Gloucestershire, stood vigil over King George VI.

King George VI lying in state
Colonel Tabor's father stood vigil in 1952
"He told me that when you stand with your head bowed, don't watch the people's feet as they pass - or you'll eventually find yourself falling over," says Colonel Tabor, who lives at Martin, near Salisbury.

"That's something I want to avoid at all costs."

The cavalry officer - and one-time equerry to Prince Charles - says that while the duty is a great honour, standing for so long can become very tiring.

Family duty

Wearing the same style of high boots and armour breastplate as his father would have donned in 1952 - the attire more suited to soldiering in the days long before the Queen Mother's birth - Colonel Tabor can barely walk.

He will not be the only member of the Household Regiment happily willing to endure discomfort to lend dignity and ceremony to the Queen Mother's lying in state.

Ludovic
"He knows something is going on."
The usually mounted soldiers are giving up their horses to march beside the coffin as it travels to Westminster Hall.

"We've been practising hard and there are a few sore feet," says Corporal of Horse Simon Wall. "We all gave up our leave for this, but it's an honour and a privilege and no one would miss it."

Ludovic is one of the regiment's horses that will turn out for the procession - to carry senior officers. Sergeant Zack Russell says the horse is "one of the old and bold" and not likely to be put off by the occasion.

Old and bold

"I'm not worried about him. It's the officers I might pray for. One of them has only just learned to ride. Ludovic will be fine. Get the tack out and he goes into parade mood."

Polishing tack
"We're making a special effort."
Ludovic, basking under a bank of warming lamps, looks around. "He knows something is going on," says Sergeant Russell.

As the mount relaxes in comfort, next door the smell of horses mixes with the polish fumes. Since two in the morning, guardsman have been frantically preparing tack and saddles - some of which date back to 1814.

"It always takes hours, it has to be spot on - but now we're making a special effort," says Guardsman Shane Proctor.

Gun salute

Across at the base of the Royal Horse Artillery, Lance Bombardier Samatha Butterworth would perhaps see polishing a saddle as child's play. She has spent the past few days giving a one-and-half-ton gun carriage a shine you could shave in.

"It's the same gun carriage George VI was carried on," she says wiping grease from her fingers.

Lance Bombardier Samantha Butterworth
"I'll be so proud - it's my gun."
Worried that reporters might not understand the arduous process involved in creating such a sheen, the Lance Bombardier shouts over to for them "not to touch my gun".

It takes 12 hours to polish just the breach section, she says. "Once you've stripped it down, the metal begins to rust again within 10 seconds." She presses a finger onto the paintwork of an artillery piece fired in anger on the Western Front: "She how it smudges?"

Rubbing frantically at the smear, she looks fondly at the weapon. "I'll be so proud when it goes out for the Queen Mother - it's my gun."


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The cavalry prepares


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