A Kwalikum Secondary School (KSS) graduate will attend the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.
Alexander Close, a 24-year-old member of the Royal Air Force (RAF) was selected to attend the monarch’s final farewell at Windsor Castle on Sept. 19, according to his father, Anthony Close.
“It is a very special moment for sure,” Anthony said. “And he is extremely proud to be a Canadian-British citizen over there taking part in it.”
Close, who has been in the RAF for two years, served as an air cadet in 893 Beaufort Squadron in Qualicum Beach from age 12 to 19. He is stationed at RAF Cosford, near Birmingham, according to his dad.
Close will be part of the ceremonial dress parade in the committal ceremony at Windsor Castle.
“While the funeral is taking place at Westminster and then there’s a long parade, he is more or less at the final stage at Windsor, as the procession comes past, he’ll be there doing drill,” Anthony said.
He was chosen along with other personnel from different air bases around the UK. Anthony said Close has been so busy with his preparations that he did not have time to fill him in on many details.
Close, who is staying in a barracks in London, rehearsed from 10 p.m. all through the night until 10 a.m. the other night, in preparation for the big day.
He’ll need to be up at 2 a.m. Monday morning to prepare, Anthony said.
“He’s always wanted to be in an aviation field, ever since he was about five years old,” he added.
Close applied to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) before he graduated from KSS and was accepted as a pilot.
He was ready to travel to Ontario to take the final physical exam, but unfortunately his medical records were misplaced. By the time they were relocated the pilot intake had been filled and was closed for two years, according to Anthony.
“Because he had his dual citizenship, he decided that he would go over to England and try his luck with the RAF,” Anthony said.
Close was eligible, but would need to spend three years of residency in the UK to qualify. He took a few years of college and studied physics, mathematics, psychology and English.
After being accepted into the air force, his pilot training was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Close decided to transfer to the British Army’s parachute regiment, but was able to transfer back to the RAF and completed his basic training in November 2021, according to Anthony.
Because pilot intake was still closed, he opted to instead train as an aircraft engineer.
Close hopes to bring his skills back to Vancouver Island some day, as a float plane pilot or specialize as a helicopter engineer.
Throughout his life, he and his father travelled each year to air shows in England, where they could stay with family in the Cambridge area.
Close’s grandfather was a passionate model builder and flyer, aviation enthusiast and historian. He was also in the British Army’s Royal Corps of Signals, stationed in West Germany during the Cold War.
He starting building model airplanes with his father around the age of five and by seven he was travelling to competitions with his father and grandfather and won several trophies.
“Even back then he had a deep fascination with flying,” Anthony said.
While in air cadets, Close reached the rank of warrant officer and parade commander for 893 Beaufort Squadron. He was involved with lots of fundraising for the Parksville, Qualicum Beach and Bowser legions.
“He’s extremely honoured to be part of this process,” Anthony said. “It think part of that sense of pride is he is a Canadian citizen.”