MP and Rhyl war veteran caught up in terror attack speak of dramatic scenes inside Westminster

Reporter:

Suzanne Jordan

A FORMER Rhyl soldier and MP found themselves in the middle of a lockdown in Parliament as last Wednesday’s terror attack unfolded.

Stewart Harris, who served for 13 years in the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards and was involved in the Poppy Appeal’s moving campaign, had been invited to the House of Commons for a Royal British Legion Parliamentary reception and was asked to rally support for The Armed Forces Covenant and share his own story.

In 2012, while on routine vehicle patrol in Afghanistan, the mastiff Stewart was travelling in was hit by an IED.

He suffered brain damage and as a result, is blind in his right eye and is also partially deaf. He also suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

After his meeting, Stewart tried to enter another room but was stopped by a policeman.

The 32-year-old said he could hear the voices of “distressed” police officers and realised something wasn’t right.

He said: “I assumed it was protesters but I later found out it was much, much worse. After some time, we were moved to the central lobby.

“News started coming through and the atmosphere change from being all smiles, to having photos on the terrace, to a low but surprisingly calm atmosphere.

“In the central lobby, there were three classes of very small children – about 70 altogether on a day trip to London.

“I concentrated all my efforts on them, asking their names and what they had seen on their day out so far.

“A few hours later, we were moved to Westminster Hall and we were released about 7.45pm. The Met Police carried out an absolutely sterling job that day.”

Four people were killed and about 50 were injured last Wednesday when a man – identified as Khalid Masood – drove through pedestrians before launching a knife attack.

PC Keith Palmer was stabbed and killed. Masood was shot dead by armed officers.

James Davies, MP for Vale of Clwyd, was with Stewart on the day and had sponsored the Royal British Legion event.

“I was making my way via the voting lobby to the chamber and it was at this point that some colleagues began to report that they had witnessed a commotion and gunfire outdoors,” he said.

“As the seriousness of the events became apparent, the chamber was put into lockdown and we were only permitted to leave for our offices some four and a half hours later.

“Colleagues and visitors were guided to safety. The atmosphere was calm throughout, but the level of concern was palpable.

”We all did our best to support members of the public still sat in the gallery, especially the schoolchildren, and the doorkeepers did an excellent job in reassuring, providing tap water and eventually guiding us out.

“A mixture of emotions passed through my mind during the lockdown but there was pride at the united refusal to be cowed by these terrorist actions.”

Stewart added: “The next day I gave a talk at a school and then back to London, to speak on behalf of the Army Benevolent Fund in Sloane Square.

“The day we stop living our lives because of their actions, that’s when they have won.”

See full story in the Free Press

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