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Youngest Kiwi proud to represent NZ at Queen's Funeral

At 18 years old, Gunner Reagen Powell from Matamata is not only the youngest in his regiment, he was the youngest member of the New Zealand Defence Force contingent to march in the Her Majesty The Late Queen Elizabeth II's funeral procession on Monday.

21 September, 2022

On Monday, Gunner Powell was in the main body of the Commonwealth Contingent marching in the Queen’s funeral procession down the Mall in London. He was among 24 New Zealanders, 64 Canadians and 28 Australians.

The New Zealanders were on the left side of the contingent group and those watching the broadcast again may spot Gunner Powell, 11th down, wearing NZ Army service dress and his ‘lemon squeezer’ hat with a red band.

It was “pretty amazing” being there, he said.

“Death is something that affects all of us at some point. But to see so many people feeling that, all at the same time, was pretty sombre.”

After farewelling the Queen at Wellington Arch, the contingent marched back to Wellington Barracks at St James’s Park.

“On the way back, the crowd clapped us.”

Gunner Powell is used to commemorations despite his short military career so far. He joined the Army this year after leaving Matamata College and looking for a job that offered something out of the ordinary.

He found that niche serving as a Gunner with 161 Battery, 16th Field Regiment, based in Linton. His Battery handles the light field guns that 16th Field Regiment use for Royal salutes in New Zealand.

He was part of the firing party for the 96-round death salute for Queen, and the accession salute for His Majesty King Charles III, both in Wellington.

The Prince of Wales reacts to Gunner Powell’s admission that his drill is still a bit rusty

His deployment to England came out of the blue.

“I was expecting a normal day at work. I was in the shower when my mates found me and said ‘Headquarters wants you’. I went to Regiment Headquarters and was told, get your stuff, you’re going to England.”

The contingent arrived in London a week before the funeral 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 coming this far. The New Zealand contingent returned the thanks by performing the Defence Force haka. 

It was to show respect to the Prince and Princess, and because the personnel were thinking about the Queen, he said.

“It’s for the people of New Zealand, for anyone watching. It’s for everyone.”

“He (Prince William) asked me how my drill was. I said I was a bit rusty. He said the Queen would always notice the little things in drill.” 

Gunner Powell said he took that as a hint he’d better perfect it for the day.

He was impressed at how quickly such an enormous event came together.

“I never thought I would come somewhere as far as this, and I’m very proud to be involved.

“My Aunt and Uncle, who raised me, know I’m representing New Zealand and are proud for me as well.”