The proud father of a Ripon soldier said he was “in disbelief” when his son was chosen to carry Margaret Thatcher’s coffin at her funeral today (Wednesday).
Gary Steel, the father of Lance Corporal James Steel who was among eight serviceman selected to carry Baroness Thatcher’s coffin, said his son has “always been a very high achiever”.
Lance Corporal Steel, 24, represented the 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, during the funeral parade at St Paul’s Cathedral this morning. He was the coffin bearer on the right hand side of Baroness Thatcher’s coffin, third back from the front.
Talking to the Gazette just an hour before the funeral procession began at 11am, former soldier Mr Steel said: “James is quite nervous. During rehearsals, he said the hardest part was carrying the coffin up the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral, but people presume the hardest part is carrying it back down.”
Lance Corporal was inspired to become a soldier by his Grandad, who served in the 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment.
“When he was about 18, James came to me and said: ‘Dad, I want to be a Para like Grandad.’”
Lance Corporal Steel attended Ripon College – now Outwood Academy – where he was head boy and excelled at sport, especially basketball.
He represented England at junior level for Basketball before becoming a soldier.
He was recently promoted to Lance Corporal and currently serves in Colchester.
“The whole family is extremely proud,” Mr Steel said. “He’s a high flyer.”