Bearing the coffin carrying Margaret Thatcher was a memorable experience for all eight bearers tasked with the role this week...but for one it held special significance for it was a Grantham lad carrying a Grantham girl.
Sergeant Jason Buffham, of the 4th Regiment Royal Artillery, was given the “honour” of accompanying the Grantham-born former Prime Minister through the streets of London to her funeral service at St Paul’s Cathedral.
As someone who grew up in Grantham, like Baroness Thatcher, he described the experience as “poignant”.
Sgt Buffham, who was educated at Isaac Newton Primary School and Central School, said: “It was an honour to have been part of it, it was such a monumental occasion. Everyone has different opinions [of Baroness Thatcher] but that’s irrelevant. It was an honour.”
Eyes across the world were on the centre of London on Wednesday. But Sgt Buffham, 30, said he had no time to think about the attention or goings-on around him as he focussed entirely on carrying out his duty seamlessly.
He said: “I heard a lot of cheering and clapping but we were focussing on what we were doing. I was aware there was an atmosphere around us but there were things we had to think about.”
After being chosen to represent his regiment, six days of intensive training followed as the eight men chosen from all three services learned how to fall in step together.
Sgt Buffham said: “When I was told I was doing it I was a bit overwhelmed but I didn’t compute the magnitude of it. It was when we got to London that it started to become more apparent.”
A shock came while the bearers were awaiting the arrival of Baroness Thatcher’s coffin at the Church of St Clement Danes. As the door opened, Sgt Buffham said he was stunned by noise and the flash of cameras. He said: “That’s when I realised it was a big thing.”
Following a short service, the eight bearers carried the coffin on to the gun carriage. They then walked alongside the carriage to the cathedral, four on each side.
Once they had placed the coffin on a trestle, the bearers were seated for the service.
Sgt Buffham said: “It was very sombre. I was aware of people, especially the Queen, but I was so focussed on getting it right that I couldn’t focus on anything else.”
As part of the 4th Regiment Royal Artillery, Sgt Buffham is based in Yorkshire, but counts Grantham as his home. Family members still live in the town and Sgt Buffham, who has a three-year-old daughter, looks forward to coming home.
He remembers working on the market on Saturday mornings as a teenager, setting up the stalls “for a tenner”.
He joined the Army aged 17 and spent seven years stationed in Germany. He is now based in Topcliffe, Yorkshire.