Pre-dawn rehearsal for Margaret Thatcher's funeral

Associated Press
British forces' officers escort a Union Jack-draped coffin on a gun carriage drawn by the King's Troop Royal Artillery during a rehearsal for the upcoming funeral of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in central London, early Monday, April 15, 2013. Thatcher, the combative "Iron Lady" who infuriated European allies and transformed her country by a ruthless dedication to free markets in 11 bruising years as prime minister, died Monday, April 8, 2013. The funeral will take place Wednesday, April 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

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LONDON (AP) — A pre-dawn military rehearsal was held Monday in preparation for Margaret Thatcher's funeral, while officials announced the familiar bells of the Big Ben clock tower will be silenced for the actual event.

In advance of Wednesday's funeral at St. Paul's Cathedral, a flag-draped coffin was carried by horse-drawn carriage Monday to the famous domed cathedral in central London. Some 700 Armed Forces personnel were in place for the drill.

Officials say the practice was needed to familiarize troops from different service branches with the plan.

The funeral of the former prime minister who died last week at the age of 87 will be attended by Queen Elizabeth II, her husband Prince Philip, and numerous foreign dignitaries.

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said the clock tower bells would be silenced during the funeral as a way to show respect for Thatcher.

Officials said the last time the bells were silenced was for the funeral of wartime leader Winston Churchill, except for a period when the clock needed repair in the 1970s.

Some opponents to the policies she pursued while in office plan to hold a protest during the funeral procession.

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