23 September, 2022
That definitely includes being the Commander of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) contingent to London to farewell Her Majesty The Late Queen Elizabeth II.
On Monday, Lieutenant Colonel Gerling, originally from Cromwell and now based at Linton Military Camp outside Palmerston North, was in the main body of the Commonwealth contingent marching in the Queen’s funeral procession down The Mall in London, among 24 New Zealanders, 64 Canadians and 28 Australians.
“The privilege of coming over here as contingent commander, and being part of history, is something you will never forget,” he said.
Lieutenant Colonel Gerling is no stranger to commemorations. As the Commanding Officer of 16th Field Regiment in Linton, gun salutes in New Zealand fall under his responsibility.
16th Field Regiment conducts the Royal salutes in New Zealand, including the Monarch’s birthday. More recently, the Regiment fired the 96-round death salute for Queen, and the accession salute for His Majesty King Charles III.
The privilege of coming over here as contingent commander, and being part of history, is something you will never forget.
The NZDF contingent arrived in London a week ago and rehearsed at Pirbright Army Camp in Surrey.
A highlight of the week was the visit to Pirbright by the Prince and Princess of Wales on Friday, to thank the Commonwealth contingents for attending.
At around 2am on Monday the contingent was bussed to Wellington Barracks beside St James’s Park in London.
A big moment was seeing the sea of people as they turned towards Buckingham Palace, then heading onwards to Wellington Arch, where the procession concluded, Lieutenant Colonel Gerling said.
While the Armed Forces stood at attention, the Queen’s coffin was placed in the Royal hearse.
“Where I was positioned, I had an amazing view of another piece of history, the Queen being transferred into the hearse until the vehicles departed. I probably had the best seat in the world to watch her depart.
“But what really hit me was the crowd clapping and showing support as we marched back to barracks after it was all over. It really demonstrated the public support for our being there.”