Prince Philip: Cannon fire rings out in Portsmouth as Buckingham palace reveals when duke's funeral is
THE thunderous sound of cannon fire echoed through Portsmouth Harbour as explosive tributes were paid to the Duke of Edinburgh.
Sailors at Portsmouth Naval Base carried out a 41-gun salute to mark the death of Prince Philip.
Beginning at the stroke of midday, one round was fired every minute from three, 3lb guns.
Led by a 14-strong team from HMS Collingwood the 40-minute ceremonial tribute took place on South Railway Jetty, which Prince Philip and his family would join the Royal Yacht Britannia.
The gunners – all from the navy’s specialist close range training team – were recalled from as far away as Wales, Hull and Manchester to perform the noon salute.
The tribute came as Buckingham Palace tonight revealed when the Duke of Edinburgh will be.
Hundreds of people lined shores in Gosport and Old Portsmouth to witness the spectacle, reserved to commemorate the death of royalty.
The eyes of the world’s media were on the city’s tribute as it was beamed over national and international TV.
The shells for the three guns were delivered under police escort and each round checked by the gunners in a practice drill ahead of firing.
‘There is always a sense of occasion when you are firing the guns, today especially so. It is made more poignant when you remember that this is the jetty where the Royal Yacht Britannia was berthed,’ said Warrant Officer Glynn Moffat, officer in charge of close range training.
Among those witnessing the tribute was Falklands veteran David Watts, who had joined a crowd outside of Old Portsmouth’s The Spice Island Inn.
The 80-year-old retired Warrant Officer from Southsea had the chance to meet the prince on ‘many occasions’ during his 30-year naval career.
He said: ‘He was a likable, fun-loving guy who could talk to anybody at any level. I think he has done a fantastic job. His impact around the world has been massive.’
Mr Watts recounted one occasion where he met the Duke and the Queen after he returned to Portsmouth on HMS Invincible, following the Falklands conflict in 1982.
‘I was in the hangar of the aircraft carrier when the Queen came up to me and said: “what did you do during the war?”, and I said I was responsible for the weapons firings, ma’am.
‘She said “was it rough?” and I told her it was “roughish”. Well behind her stood Prince Philip whose eyes rolled up to the heavens at someone who made a comment like that to her.
‘But we had a few conversations over the years. He was a wonderful man.’
Lyn Comerford, of Old Portsmouth, also paid tribute to the royal. She said: ‘He was an amazing man, an amazing servant to the Queen and to the country.
‘He was a very modest man but a real character. I really admired him.’
Other gun salutes were staged by sailors on board frigate HMS Montrose, in Oman, and Portsmouth-based destroyer HMS Diamond in the Channel.
Bells were told at churches and cathedrals across the area, too. Union flags were also lowered to half-mast, in honour of the duke.
Elsewhere, sailors in Portsmouth are beginning preparations to join the funeral of Prince Philip, which is due to take place on Saturday.
The funeral will be broadcast live to the nation from 3pm next week, with Prince Charles leading a procession to the chapel at Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace revealed today.
Sailors taking part in Operation Bridge – the codename used to mark the funeral of a senior royal – are expected to gather at Pirbright army base, in Surrey. on Monday to begin rehearsals.
Officials say there will be a national minute’s silence at 3pm before the service at St George’s Chapel begins.
And, in line with the duke’s wishes, he will be laid to rest in a ceremonial – rather than state – funeral.