The historic State funeral for HM Queen Elizabeth was a poignant occasion for millions around the world – but for two young Island military personnel, the ceremony was especially momentous.

Georgia Carmichael and Angus Bellamy had the honour of being part of the magnificent funeral procession in September: one on horseback and one helping to draw the gun carriage.  We caught up with them after the event.

In May 2022, Trooper Georgia Carmichael was on duty for the Royal Windsor Horse Show as part of the Sovereign’s escort parade – where she got an unexpectedly close-up view of the Queen, emerging from the official Range Rover.  “I remember feeling a bit shocked and thinking:  “Gosh, she’s tiny!”

What Georgia couldn’t have known at that moment was that, within just a few months, she would be back in Windsor to take part in the Monarch’s funeral.

“Looking back now, both occasions felt very surreal” she says.


Never forget


As a member of the Blues and Royals Squadron the young Islander, aged just 20, is part of the Household Cavalry, essentially the Royal Family’s personal Lifeguard, and performs daily duties at Whitehall as well as taking part in official parades.

But the solemnity of the Queen’s funeral is something she will never forget.  The whole of the week prior was spent in Windsor, rehearsing for the event between the hours of midnight and 7am while the roads were closed.

Georgia was assigned to Vice, a ‘humungous’ black sports horse of 17.2 hands who had been trained in full State kit, and who, she says, performed “immaculately” on the day.

“It really hit me when we were behind the hearse” she recalls.  “I couldn’t see the coffin but could feel what was going on around me:  a lot of ex-Service people were openly grieving, older men with a row of medals on their chest. People who had been closest to the Queen walking behind the coffin. Then I looked to the left and saw the Queen’s pony come into view.  There was a sharp intake of breath from everyone at that point, it was so moving”.

After the event, Georgia watched it back on video and found it hard to believe that she had been a part of it all.

A history of Georgia

For someone who was still a student at Cowes Enterprise College only four years ago, it has been a rapid rise to such a responsible role.

The child of Army parents, and with Services relatives going back three generations – Georgia never particularly wanted to go into the Military. She’d experienced the frequent moving about that went with their postings, and was happy when they left the Service and settled back on her native Isle of Wight.

She went to school at East Cowes and Queensgate Primary schools, and in her spare time became absorbed by a passion for horses.

Her mum Lorraine Witt had taken up riding and started young Georgia off with a little black Shetland pony, after which she progressed to riding other people’s horses and got involved in hunting and showing.

She says she briefly considered a career as a vet nurse, but in the end her family’s military tradition, combined with love of horses, won out. She signed up at 16 and went to Harrogate for a year of basic training. Then, during Covid she progressed quickly to further training with the Royal Armoured Corps and then underwent specialised Ceremonial training.

Living in London

Her current base in London means she now lives a very different kind of life from the one she enjoyed on the Island.

“Hacking around London is something else!” she says.  “There are all kinds of unexpected things that can frighten the horses, like those rotating bus signs or huge pieces of scaffolding being moved about close to you.  On the Island, people would stop for you because they understand horses – but not in the City!”

Not surprisingly Georgia enjoys her three-times-a-year breaks back on the Island with Mum, Stepdad and seven year-old sister Sophie.  “I do miss the Island, with all my friends and the laidback lifestyle – but I’m lucky to have a job that I love so much”.

Historic tradition

Royal Navy trainee Weapons Engineer Angus Bellamy also played a key role in the State funeral, as one of the 138 sailors selected for the honour of guiding the traditional gun carriage bearing the Queen’s coffin on its  journey to and from Westminster Abbey.

“It was a real privilege to be part of it” said Angus, 20, who had only joined the Navy in February 2022. He and his class of fellow Naval trainees at HMS Collingwood in Fareham were told soon after the Queen’s death that they would be required to take part in the funeral procession, and immediately began a non-stop training schedule to get ready for the day.

He clearly remembers his first sight of the massed crowd as the gun carriage emerged at the start of its journey. “Just seeing that many people was a bit of a shock at first. It’s something you’d never expect to experience”.

Marching solemnly behind the gun carriage in their striking parade uniforms, Angus and his fellow Naval ratings became part of a tradition that began with the funeral of Queen Victoria.

A naval career

Not surprisingly, back on the Island, his parents Jason and Naomi, sisters Lizzie and Katherine, and many of his friends were all watching the event on TV – and after he got home for his regular weekend leave, they were all keen to hear his first-hand experience.

For Angus, a former pupil at Brighstone Primary and Christ the King schools, the Military was always a strong career choice. He’d listened to his brother-in-law and a cousin talk about their life in the Royal Marines, but with parents and both sisters working in farming, his career choice could have gone either way.

In fact he did work for a farm in Brighstone for a while after leaving school, but ultimately decided on the Naval career, and says it has definitely been the right choice.

“I’m really  looking forward to doing my Phase 2 training and then being posted onto a ship somewhere” he says.

Meanwhile, continuing his training in Fareham means he can still get back to the Island for weekends.  And when he goes out, there are still plenty of people wanting to ask him about his experience of that memorable national event in September.