MILLIONS of people from around the world sat down to watch the funeral of Baroness Thatcher today – including a proud Hartlepool family whose son was chosen to help carry her coffin.
Hero solder Corporal Carl Spence – who was given a commendation after he crawled along a bomb-filled path to rescue his injured colleagues under Taliban fire – was one of eight men from all three services that made up the bearer party at the former Prime Minister’s funeral in London.
Cpl Spence, 29, is a member of 9 Parachute Squadron, Royal Engineers and his family watched his every move from their home in Spalding Road, Hartlepool.
Dad Gary Spence, who works for Tata Steel, watched alongside his wife Susan, 53, a newsagent worker, and Cpl Spence’s brother Gary, 32, and 24-year-old sister Jamielee, who works in a beauty shop.
Gary, 53, said before the service: “I am nervous for him because there is a lot of pressure on his shoulders as millions of people around the world are obviously going to be watching.
“It is a huge honour for Carl and the Army must think a lot of him.
“We are all very proud of him.
“I am working nights and his mum has taken the day off so thankfully we are all able to watch it together as a family, which is great.”
All the pall bearers came from units that played notable roles in the Falklands conflict and the bearer party was followed by two cap orderlies holding the caps of the bearers.
Cpl Spence previously told the Mail: “I am really proud to have been chosen to play a part in such a huge occasion.
“My name and a colleague’s were put forward, but luckily I was selected and it is a huge honour to represent 9 Parachute Squadron.”
Despite being completely exposed to Taliban snipers, Cpl Spence crawled more than 90ft to each casualty and treated their wounds in the soaring 40C heat after an explosion in Afghanistan.
His mine detector had been destroyed in the 2008 blast, but the former Manor College of Technology student prodded his way down the trails and cleared a wider path to allow the injured soldiers to be carried to safety.
He was awarded a Joint Commander’s Commendation for showing “exceptional coolness” amidst the dust, mayhem and confusion.
• Visit www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk throughout the day for updates about the funeral and protest parties.