A young guardsman who took part in the Queen’s state funeral has tragically been found dead at his barracks.
Gatekeepers News reports that Trooper Jack Burnell-Williams, 18, played a key role in the extraordinary procession guarding Her Majesty’s coffin as it was carried on a majestic gun carriage from Westminster Abbey, through Whitehall, down The Mall and past Buckingham Palace to Wellington Arch earlier this month.
Police and paramedics from London Ambulance Service raced to Hyde Park Barracks in Knightsbridge, central London after the alarm was raised at 3.48 pm on Wednesday. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Police said they are not treating the death as suspicious.
On the day of the Queen’s funeral, the soldier’s family proudly posted video footage of troops from the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment taking part in the ceremony, saying that their son was ‘doing his duty for the Queen on her final journey’.
But just days later devastated mother Laura, 42, posted a picture of her son, known to his family as Jak, on horseback in his ceremonial uniform and wrote in an emotional tribute on Facebook: ‘Never ever thought I would be saying this but we as a family are all heartbroken with the sudden passing of our wonderful son Jak Williams yesterday.’
Trooper Burnell-Williams, who served in the Blues and Royals, is thought to be one of the Household Cavalry’s newest recruits. His family from Bridgend, South Wales are planning on setting off dozens of blue balloons in his memory tomorrow.
Jak is thought to have taken part in a series of ceremonial events during the official period of mourning following the death of the Queen on September 8 – including guarding King Charles III and senior members of the Royal Family when the coffin was taken in a gun carriage procession to Westminster Abbey from Buckingham Palace ahead of her lying in state.
Proud mother Laura posted a series of photographs of her son in ceremonial uniform on June 8 during his passing out parade at Hyde Park barracks. In June, just a month after Jak turned 18, she also posted TV footage of her son taking part in the Trooping of the Colour as part of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations, with the caption: ‘One of the proudest days of my life’.
It is thought Jak, who had been a keen horse rider since his childhood days, had overcome a series of injuries to fulfil his dream of joining the elite regiment which is the second-most senior in the British Army.
As well as acting as ceremonial guard to the monarch, who is their commander in chief, the regiment operates as a frontline armoured reconnaissance unit.
Laura wrote on September 14: ‘So proud of my boy accompanying his Queen on her final journey.’
During the funeral procession on September 19, Household Cavalry soldiers on horseback followed behind King Charles, and other senior Royals including Prince William and Prince Harry as they walked behind the Queen’s coffin as it was hauled by gun carriage to Wellington Arch at London’s Hyde Park Corner.
On the day of the funeral, Jak’s father Daniel Burnell, 41, posted video footage and images of mounted soldiers from the Household Cavalry taking part in the procession.
‘My son doing his duty for the Queen on her final journey. So proud of you Jak Williams xx very proud father xx,’ he wrote.
Heating engineer Mr Burnell was told of the tragedy hours after it happened on Wednesday. Mr Burnell is no longer with Jak’s mother, who also lives in Bridgend.
A relative at his three-bedroom modern link house in the village of Brackla near Bridgend, said: ‘He’s in shock. He’s struggling at the moment and not thinking straight.’
Hundreds of tributes poured in for Jak today after his mother announced her son’s death.
Jak’s girlfriend Molly Holmes was among those who posted on Laura’s Facebook page. She wrote: ‘Forever going to miss you my love. Truly heartbroken.’
Jak’s sister Elisha wrote: ‘We will get through this together as a team. We need to do him just as proud as he’s done us.’
Elisha said family and friends will be setting off blue balloons in his memory at Bryntirion Football Club in Bridgend in his memory at 4pm tomorrow.
She wrote on Facebook: ‘Please spread the word and join us in celebrating my boy’s life. Blue colours to be worn preferably and also blue balloons.’
One well-wisher wrote: ‘So very sad. I’m so shocked. We have all seen the videos of him doing his duty for the Queen over the last month. Thinking of you.’
His aunt Jodie Danks wrote: ‘Such heartbreaking news. I can’t believe you’re gone. You was taken way too soon. We all love you so much my handsome nephew. You made us all so proud. Rest in peace.’
One Army mum wrote: ‘Absolutely devastated for you as a family. Was a pleasure to have met Jak and for our son to have spent the last two years alongside him.’
Another, Tracy Fury, wrote: ‘I’m still reeling with this news. We chatted so much about our boys in the Army. My heart goes out to you and your family. You can get support and help from the military which you probably know already. Thinking of you.’
Another friend wrote: ‘I’m devastated for you. Jak was a fantastic young man who has not only made you proud of his achievements but everyone that knew him. I’m so, so sorry Laura.’
After the funeral Laura wrote a simple message saying ‘My boy…’ along with a posting from the Household Cavalry telling how since the death of the Queen they had been ‘committed to honouring her life and providing an escort worthy of a global audience’.
The post continued: ‘We hope that we made the Royal Family proud and know that our thoughts and prayers are with them as they continue to mourn the loss of a beloved woman.’
It went on to describe the experience as ‘one of the greatest endeavours of our lives to date’.
One friend responded: ‘What an amazing lovely man Jak is! What an honour and achievement for him at his young age. You and Dan are very blessed to have such a beautiful son.’
An Army spokesperson said: ‘It is with sadness that we can confirm the death of Trooper Jack Burnell-Williams on September 28 at Hyde Park Barracks. Our thoughts are with the soldier’s family and friends at this difficult time and we ask that their privacy is respected.’
A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said: ‘An 18-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene. His next of kin have been informed.
‘The death was unexpected, it has been investigated and is not being treated as suspicious. Officers will assist with preparing a report for the coroner.’