Big Ben to be silenced for Thatcher funeral service

THE CHIMES of Big Ben will be switched off during Baroness Thatcher’s funeral tomorrow morning as a mark of respect for the former Prime Minister, it was announced yesterday.

House of Commons speaker John Bercow said silencing the bells would be the “most appropriate means of indicating our sentiments”.

“I believe that there can be a profound dignity and deep respect expressed in, and through, silence,” he added.

It is thought that the bells were last switched off as a mark of respect during Winston Churchill’s funeral in 1965.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, who is helping to organise the funeral, said it was “a dignified and respectful gesture on the part of parliament”.

Meanwhile hundreds of police and military personnel were involved in yesterday’s early morning funeral rehearsal. Soldiers lined deserted streets from 5am as they practiced the coffin’s procession on a horse-drawn gun carriage from The Strand to St Paul’s cathedral, accompanied by funeral marches by Chopin, Beethoven and Mendelssohn.

Last night more crowd-control barriers were placed along London’s streets as specialist police forces from around the UK started to arrive in the capital as part of an enormous security operation.

Transport for London has reiterated its advice for motorists to avoid driving through Westminster and the City of London for the entire day.

It also confirmed that roads that will be closed from 7.30am tomorrow include Cannon Street, Fleet Street, Cheapside, Trafalgar Square, and The Strand.

Blackfriars and Westminster bridges will only be open for access to the Victoria Embankment, while dozens of bus routes will be put on diversion.

Roads west of Aldwych are expected to be open to traffic by midday, while roads to the east – including those in the City – are expected to be fully reopened by 3pm.

Lady Thatcher’s coffin will arrive at the Houses of Parliament tonight, where it will stay overnight in the chapel of St Mary Undercroft before being transferred to The Strand. The service will begin at 11am.

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