As pinch-yourself moments go, it may be difficult to top the feeling of marching across Westminster Bridge as Big Ben chimes on the hour, with crowds of people cheering you on from behind your police escort.
That’s the situation Stroud-born Mark Bulbeck found himself in last Saturday, marching in the procession for The coronation of Charles III and his wife, Camilla, as king and queen of the United Kingdom.
After putting his name forward whilst on deployment in Estonia, British Army Sergeant Mark spent weeks in training to prepare for the heavily orchestrated event.
Mark said: “I came back home in March from six months away. Whilst out in Estonia they asked us if anyone would like to do the Coronation and a few of us put our names forward. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and not many people can say that they’ve been a part of that.
“Before we did the parade, we did a week and a half training at Sandhurst having already finished a week of drill at camp in Tidworth.
“Each day the representatives from the Army would join the cadets at Sandhurst. We’d start at 8:30am with the Guard’s personnel on a practice route that had been set up. We had a prep day on the Friday to make sure all our kit was correct, a few of us went out for food and then we got an early night.
Mark was born in Stroud but now lives in Slimbridge. Having joined the Army when he was 17, he now serves in The King’s Royal Hussars, a Royal Armoured Corps regiment based at Tidworth.
The coronation day was a long one for the soldiers, with a 3:45am alarm waking them for the train into central London to begin the military parade.
“We got a train from Surrey to Waterloo and as soon as we got off there we marched all the way to Wellington Barracks. We went over Westminster Bridge across to the Houses of Parliament and that was quite a surreal moment. The bell struck for 8am on Big Ben as we walked past which was a good feeling,” said Mark.
“As soon as we stepped onto Westminster Bridge the adrenaline started to kick in. There were so many people cheering with police everywhere and you’re going past some iconic landmarks, which is when I thought ‘Wow, this is starting to get real now.’
“After a wait in the Barracks we marched out to Buckingham Palace, down the mall and stopped halfway down Whitehall whilst the coronation took place.
This was the first coronation of a British monarch since 1953 and for those in the military parade, a chance to play their part in a seismic event, an experience Mark could not pass up.
“I’ve been in the Army for 17 years now, it’s nice to do something different. We’re deployed a lot and last year I did Poland, Germany and Estonia in one go,” he said.
“It’s important to us because the royal family have really strong links to the Armed Forces, it’s something we should be proud of, and it will be nice to reflect on one day to know you were a part of that.
“Charles is a breath of fresh air, his interest in the climate and his openness make him approachable, so I think he’s going to take us forward into a new era.”
Back home now and having spent the week cleaning out his garage, will this weekend be as full-on as the last?
“Hopefully not,” Mark chuckles.