Naval officers and cadets lined the streets outside Southwark Cathedral to pay their respects to Second World War Navy veteran who served in Dunkirk and Normandy, saving dozens of lives.
Bertram Alfred Coot, known as Bernie, lied about his age at seventeen to get into the Royal Navy as soon as possible so he could “step up” and help his country.
He had grand ideas of being posted to one of the big ships like HMS Belfast but was instead sent straight to the motor torpedo boats (MTBs).
Bernie began his naval career as an able seaman and lead stoker, responsible for getting the engines going on the high-speed short wooden boats, later rising to the rank of petty officer.
He was part of the Secret Boat Service and was responsible for saving many lives during the Second World War but rarely spoke of the horrors he witnessed, only opening up to his family towards the end of his life.
“He did begin to open up a little bit about the trauma of it – although he said that that was the job and it’s just what you had to do,” said family friend Natalie Boatfield, 34.
“He was in the Secret Boat Service so they were like commandos who would go in to get certain people out; in Dunkirk and Normandy he would be pulling guys out and telling them to drop their weapons and telling them not to walk in a straight line because it was easier for the Germans.
“He had to get a Russian princess out of France through the sewers and managed to stop the Germans getting fuel to their trucks.”