A man from Qualicum Beach says he was proud to serve as a member of the Royal Air Force (RAF) during ‘Operation London Bridge’ for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.
Alex Close, a Canadian-British citizen, moved across the pond approximately five years ago and has been training as an aircraft engineer since January.
His unit, based in RAF Cosford, was selected to line the late monarch’s funeral procession, shortly before it reached the gates of Windsor Castle.
“It was a lot of mixed emotions, to be honest,” Close said. “It was obviously a very sombre occasion, given that it was Her Majesty’s final sendoff and the last time that the public and ourselves would ever see the queen. It was emotional, but at the same time I was very proud and focused on what I had to do.”
In his role as a route liner, Close and his section carried out various drill movements while Her Majesty’s procession made its way along the road. The honour required an enormous amount of training and preparation, but he said it was 100 per cent worth it because of the importance of the occasion.
“I remember hearing the first time,” said Close, who was doing a parade at his home base when they learned the queen had died. “It was a very strange feeling, a very uncomfortable feeling when we heard that she had passed because we knew the enormity of what had just happened. We also knew there was a lot of work to be done for the operation for the funeral.”
Right away they began preparing their kit and gear for the procession.
Preparations included a training session at Windsor Castle that began at approximately 10 p.m. and lasted until 10 a.m. the following morning, going through various drill movements to ensure the timing was perfect, Close said.
Personnel from air bases across the UK were in attendance. His RAF section was chosen based on a yearly rotation between the two sides of RAF Cosford’s aircraft engineering recruits.
Close, who is also working on his pilot’s licence, hopes to eventually return to the Island and use his education and skills as a floatplane pilot.
“That is the dream for me one day.”
For now his training keeps him busy. He said he works mostly on Jaguar and Hawk fighter jets to maintain, repair and replace parts.
Close has fond memories of being in air cadets at 893 Beaufort Squadron in Qualicum Beach from age 12 to 17, going on summer camps, collaborating with other Island squadrons, flying, gliding, taking part in field exercises and learning valuable skills that helped him thrive in the air force.
“From a young age I always knew I wanted to join the military,” he said. “It seemed like the logical first step was to join the air cadets and luckily enough, there was 893, which was just down the road.”