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Falklands veterans to play role in Thatcher funeral

Committee prepares for what could be controversial event

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will attend Margaret Thatcher’s funeral  at St. Paul’s cathedral next Wednesday, Buckingham Palace has announced.

8221101It will be the first time the monarch has attended the funeral of a prime  minister since the death of Winston Churchill in 1965.

Personnel from Armed Forces’ units that played a key role in the Falklands  conflict will feature in the funeral procession, with more than 800 lining the  route from the Palace of Westminster to St Paul’s Cathedral.

Plans for Thatcher’s funeral are being drawn up by a high-level committee  executing “Operation True Blue.”

The committee, which had its first formal meeting Tuesday, will convene every  day between now and next Wednesday’s funeral.

The committee brings together MI5, National Security Secretariat, the police, Buckingham Palace, the Church of England, the Parliamentary authorities, government departments and representatives of Thatcher’s estate.

Chaired by Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, the committee’s  membership reflects the complexity and sensitivity of what will be a very public  and potentially very controversial funeral.

Plans for True Blue have been under discussion in Whitehall for several years  and the committee has more than 25 members.

The preparations come amid growing concern about security surrounding the  ceremony following a series of violent protests on the day of her death.

In London, officers will line the ceremonial route from Westminster to St.  Paul’s to prevent disorder.

The Daily Telegraph has learned that forces in cities outside London are also  preparing for potential disruption.

Security will be heightened after Buckingham Palace announced the Queen and  the Duke of Edinburgh will attend.

The Palace said the Queen had decided to attend the funeral because of the  “unique” nature of the event.

The Queen would attend the funerals of her friends in a private capacity, and  regularly sends a representative to other funerals to which she is invited,  courtiers said.

However, she has not been present at the funeral of any former prime minister  since the death of Churchill, which was an official state occasion.

According to friends, Thatcher drew up a list of more than 1,200 people she  wanted at her funeral more than a decade ago.

They are likely to include Mikhail Gorbachev, the former president of the  Soviet Union, and Ronald Reagan’s widow, Nancy.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will attend the funeral and former prime  minister Brian Mulroney has been invited to join the Canadian delegation,  according to Harper’s spokesman Andrew MacDougall.

Mulroney worked closely with the former British prime minister when they were  both in office.

Thatcher’s twin children, Mark and Carol, will be among those attending the  funeral. Both were abroad at the time of her death.

A spokesman for St Paul’s said full details of the funeral service will be  released Thursday.

David Cameron will lead the House of Commons Wednesday in tribute to his  predecessor, describing her as Britain’s greatest peacetime prime  minister.

2635699_Main_pic__240177bThe British Parliament has been recalled from its Easter break to mark  Thatcher’s death, the first such recall for a single death since that of Queen  Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, in 2002.

Britain’s continued dispute with Argentina over the Falkland Islands is also  casting a shadow over the preparations, and the committee tasked with planning  the funeral saw its first meeting filled with lengthy discussions about whether  Argentina should be represented.

The Welsh Guards, the regiment that suffered some of the heaviest losses  during the Falklands war, will provide the guard of honour.

Simon Weston, a former Welsh Guard who was badly wounded aboard the Sir  Galahad ship, is expected to be one of several Falklands veterans to receive an  invitation.

“It is an honour for the regiment – it was just chance that we were the unit  on the spot when this came up, but it is very apt,” he said. “This is a very sad  time for me and for a lot of people in the regiment – when we had to go to war,  she was there for us. Now we can be there for her.”

Around 10 students from the Falklands who are studying at British  universities will also be invited, along with members of the islands’  assembly.

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