Preston says a surprise farewell to Prince Philip on the steps of the Harris

Preston paid its own personal tribute today as the Duke of Edinburgh was laid to rest at Windsor Castle.

Saturday, 17th April 2021, 7:01 pm

The city staged a short ceremony on the steps of the Harris Museum at 3pm to coincide with the Duke's funeral 220 miles away.

The brief service, involving a bugler, a piper and Armed Forces standard bearers, was a poignant one, performed on the very spot where Prince Philip and the Queen sat in 2002 to bestow city status on Preston.

Mayor Coun David Borrow represented the city which the Duke visited on numerous occasions dating back to 1949 when he first accompanied the then Princess Elizabeth on a Royal tour to Lancashire.

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Standards from all three branches of the Armed Force are lowered for the national two-minute silence on the steps of the Harris.

And as with the funeral service in Windsor, the event at Preston had a strong military flavour in recognition of Prince Philip's wartime service with the Royal Navy.

Colonel David Waters, the president of the Preston and District Veterans' Council, attended on behalf of the three services, with flags from the Navy, Army and Air Force on display.

And two ex-servicemen from the Second World War, both in their nineties, were also there to pay their own personal tributes to a fellow naval veteran, even though neither had met the Duke in person.

Ken Benbow, 95, from Garstang was in Tokyo Bay in 1945 to witness the Japanese surrender, as was Prince Philip on another ship.

Soldiers from the Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery make their way up The Long Walk at Windsor Castle before today's funeral service.

Paddy Cawley, 97, who lives in Fulwood, served in the D-Day landings and was in the same 2nd Hunter Group as Ken tracking German U-boats in the Atlantic.

In the short service at the Harris, a bugler played the Last Post and the civic and military party stood for a two minute silence to coincide with the start of the funeral service at Windsor Castle.

Preston's tribute was kept secret in advance to avoid a crowd gathering in contravention of Covid restrictions. But a few dozen people who were passing stood in respectful silence on the Flag Market below.

The Mayor, Coun Borrow, who met Prince Philip at a reception as an MP, said: “Today we join together to pay our respects to His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and reflect on a life of public service and duty to family.

“As we come together in a minute's silence, we should remember his commitment to our armed services, his active role in the Second World War and the lasting legacy of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme which has enabled millions of young people around the world to develop important life skills.

“The city of Preston has had the honour of welcoming His Royal Highness on a number of occasions and the people of Preston are joined in our collective mourning at his passing.

"My thoughts are with Her Majesty the Queen and the entire Royal Family on this sad day.”

Col Waters, on behalf of the service veterans, said: “We are all deeply saddened at the death of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh who leaves a legacy of steadfast public service and a commitment to our armed services.

“In his roles as Admiral of the Fleet of the Royal Navy, Field Marshal of the British Army, and Marshal of the Royal Air Force, he had a special affiliation with our nation’s armed services and the men and women who serve in them. He was also a veteran of the Second World War having played an active role in the conflict as part of the Royal Navy.

“His death will be greatly mourned and it is a privilege to be part of this ceremony to pay our respects to His Royal Highness and to commemorate his life and the service he gave to our nation. My thoughts will be with her Majesty the Queen and the whole Royal Family on this sad occasion.”

Lancashire will hold a memorial service for the Duke at Blackburn Cathedral tomorrow at 4pm which Mayors from across the county will attend.