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A full dress rehearsal for Margaret Thatcher's funeral took place early this morning.

The controversial ?10m send-off for the former Tory PM is set to bring London to a standstill on Wednesday but was given a run-through while most of the city still slept.

From around 4am, swathes of military personnel - chosen for their relevance to Thatcher's time in power - gathered on eerily empty streets, all looking resplendent in their pristine uniforms.

Barriers lined the pavements and police blocked off roads for the rehearsal that was kept quiet from most to avoid any potential protests or problems.

A chance for the military to work out what they had to do and where they had to be, the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, The Household Cavalry, Foot Guards, Tri-Service Bands and Corps of Drums of the Household Division, members of the Parachute Regiment, Royal Engineers, the Royal Gurkha Rifles, The Honourable Artillery Company and the Royal Air Force were all on hand.

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A small number of early-morning risers watched on from the side only to be joined by others later with many capturing the event on their mobile phones.

Office windows slowly began to part illuminate the route as lights flickered on inside with workers arriving at their desks for the day.

Many who make the daily pilgrimage into the capital for work stopped to wonder at the unexpected sight before them - a complete contrast to what is expected on Wednesday when thousands of people, lovers of Thatcher and critics alike, are expected to attend the ceremonial funeral.

Under the fading street lights as the black of night gave way to morning blue, the white of the Royal Navy caps and the reflective jackets of the few police stood out against the high grey of St Paul's Cathedral.

Up Ludgate Hill, the final section of the route, two commanders on white horses walked among the troops, readying them for the courtege that was to come by.

Funeral directors brought a coffin, draped in a Union Flag, to St Clement Danes, the church of the RAF, before it was hoisted onto the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery gun carriage that will carry Lady Thatcher on her final trip through London.

Guided by a team of police riders, the seven horse carriage made its way down The Strand and along Fleet Street, the historical home of newspapers, on its 19-minute journey at 70 paces a minute.

Against the silence, the marching band of the Welsh Guards could be heard from streets away before it appeared at the bottom of Ludgate Hill and the brass instruments caught the lights from above as Naval officers snapped to attention with the chorus nearing.

Lined up at the bottom of the cathedral steps, the guard of honour from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards shuffled into place, their bearskin hats standing tall above everyone else.

The band in place on the cathedral courtyard struck up Elgar's funeral march and God Save The Queen before falling quiet again as the coffin approached.

A single shouted order saw the Royal Navy officers lining the street closest to St Paul's bow their heads in respect as the gold-wheeled gun carriage trundled past.

The noise from the street woke local hotel guests who peered bleary-eyed from their windows above while street cleaners stopped their work to watch the procession go by.

The gun carriage wound its way around the statue of Queen Anne before coming to a stop at the bottom of St Paul's West Steps.

Members from across the armed forces lined the steps and are expected to be joined by Chelsea Pensioners on the day.

As the bells tolled for 6am, the team of 10 military pall bearers, four a side with one back and one front, moved into place and took the coffin up onto their shoulders.

Tenderly and tentatively, they took each step one at a time, making sure they were precise with their footing and having no room for any slips.

They took a brief pause on the plateau before climbing the remaining stairs to the imposing wooden doors of the cathedral, which shut behind as they went in.

As the doors closed, the guard of honour shouldered their rifles before line-by-line they turned and marched back out on to the streets, emptying the space that was a mass of soldiers just minutes before.

With the courtyard clear, what will be Thatcher's hearse was driven on to receive the coffin that was brought down the steps as carefully as it had been taken up.

Major Andrew Chatburn, the man in charge of choreographing the parade, said the rehearsal "went very well" and claimed it was "vitally important" to stage a trial of Wednesday's event.

Maj Chatburn, ceremonial staff officer for the Household Division, who was also behind the royal wedding procession two years ago and last year's Diamond Jubilee parade, said: "Timings are most important. We will learn something quite significant this morning about the timings, and to familiarise the troops of their duties.

"Bearing in mind these are sailors, soldiers and airmen who have come in to do this specific task from their routine duties, so it's new to them.

"They need to see the ground as well so they can get a feel for how it's going to go and they can perform their duties with confidence on the day.

"I thought it went very well."

By 6.30am, teams of workers began clearing away the barriers that will have to go back up for Wednesday, leaving little to reveal to late-comers what they had just missed.