Graeme Innes’ role in the Princess of Wales’ funeral

SSPCA Drumoak centre manager Graeme Innes was just 26 years old when he took part in Diana, Princess of Wales, funeral 20 years ago, riding as part of the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery team.
SSPCA Drumoak centre manager Graeme Innes was just 26 years old when he took part in Diana, Princess of Wales, funeral 20 years ago, riding as part of the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery team.

When two billion pairs of eyes from all over the world are watching your every move, you don’t want to mess up on the job.

But a wasp almost scuppered a nine-strong team from the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery’s meticulous training for Diana, the Princess of Wales, funeral cortege 20 years ago.

Proud moment...Graeme was just 26-years-old when the Princess of Wales died. He said it was an honour to take part in her funeral cortege and it remains one of the proudest days of his life.

Proud moment...Graeme was just 26-years-old when the Princess of Wales died. He said it was an honour to take part in her funeral cortege and it remains one of the proudest days of his life.

Among their number was Graeme Innes, who is now the SSPCA centre manager at Drumoak.

In Diana, The Day Britain Cried – screened on STV last Wednesday – Graeme revealed how one pesky wasp could have ruined it for them all.

He said: “A wasp followed us and was buzzing around my sergeant’s horse, Jack.

“It was his first season in harness and he started throwing his head about.

Horses still play a big part in Graeme's life as he is manager at the SSPCA's Aberdeenshire Rehoming Centre at Drumoak, where he has worked and lived since leaving the army in 2011. He was a Lance Bombadier on the day of the funeral, acting as lead driver. He was promoted to Bombadier two days after the funeral and was a sergeant major when he finally retired, after serving for more than 20 years.

Horses still play a big part in Graeme's life as he is manager at the SSPCA's Aberdeenshire Rehoming Centre at Drumoak, where he has worked and lived since leaving the army in 2011. He was a Lance Bombadier on the day of the funeral, acting as lead driver. He was promoted to Bombadier two days after the funeral and was a sergeant major when he finally retired, after serving for more than 20 years.

“It would be unthinkable if that horse was to bolt on that occasion.

“We would have been in a whole world of pain...I think I’d maybe still be in the Tower!”

Luckily, the wasp was dispatched and the two hour parade – a four and half mile route from Kensington Palace to Westminster Abbey – went without any other hitches.

What the TV programme didn’t show though was the training the team had to undergo for the occasion.

Graeme (46) said: “We were nocturnal that week as we had to train in Regent’s Park when it closed from 12am to 5am.

“We got newspapers, rolled them up and threw them in the horses’ path to try to prepare them for the flowers.

“We were also kept away from what was going on in the outside world, only catching glimpses on the news.

“I think if we had been aware of it, sheer panic would have set in – the expectancy of the country, what was about to happen, was just massive.”

On the day of the funeral, the horses left St John’s Wood at 2am to loosen them up and the team had a security briefing at Kensington Palace.

Graeme said: “We had breakfast then the commanding officer advised us to go and have a look round, to prepare us, I think.

“The volume of people at 6am was incredible – they were ten deep at that stage.

“And what we didn’t realise from the TV clips was just how many flowers there were – they were chest deep.”

With more than one million people on the route and 32 million TV viewers in the UK alone, it was a job like no other.

Graeme said: “We knew it was going to be a huge event but this was like nothing we’d done before.

“We could hear the bell tolling every minute, people crying and it seemed to be raining flowers at one point.

“I remember seeing the Royal Family at Buckingham Palace and there was a real buzz when the boys and Prince Charles joined the cortege at St James’ Palace.

“The rest of the parade went past in a blur though. I watched it back on TV and couldn’t remember all of it!

“But it was one of the proudest days of my life – it was an honour to be part of it.”

Graeme’s wife Nicky was then heavily preganant with their eldest son, Billy, who was born on September 29, 1997.

He added: “We had a flat in Finchley Road at the time.

“Nicky and our family and friends were watching it on TV – and came out to watch as the funeral cortege passed by.”

The couple now have three sons – Billy, Daniel and Jack.