SECURITY was tight at All Saints Church in Odiham on Monday as hundreds of people attended a memorial service for Major Ron Ferguson.

Police stood at the church gates and also patrolled the churchyard as tributes were paid to Major Ferguson.

His daughter Sarah, the Duchess of York, attended the service of thanksgiving, along with his former son-in-law Prince Andrew and granddaughter Beatrice.

The Duchess was unable to bring herself to speak, but the architect Lord Palumbo of Walbrook, a friend for 44 years, read her words and those of her sister Jane.

He said: “To some who didn’t know him well he might have seemed a bit formal and reserved.

“But to those who knew him, those who loved him, Dad was a British institution in the very best sense.

“He was brave, kind, loyal, sensitive, outspoken, a champion of the underdog and devoid of any pomposity or malice.

“This is a very sad time for us all, but not one of regret. Our father lived his life in full and we are immensely proud to have been part of it.”

The daughters said their father had a rare sense of humour and was willing to see the absurdity in any situation. Rarer still, he was willing to laugh at himself.

“He marched to his own drum,” they said. “He came home from a shoot one day and hung up his gun for good, saying, ‘those birds are beautiful and I suddenly decided I no longer had the right to take their life’.

“He’d pretend to be taking us to a four-hour Wagner opera before veering off at the last to land us at a pantomime of Sleeping Beauty — the show we had been begging to see.”

Major Ferguson’s daughters said that at birthdays he would give them cards signed by the cat, the dog, the ponies, the house, the car and even a rhododendron bush.

Other readings in the service were made by Andrew, Alice and Eliza, his children by his second wife Susan.

The church was filled to overflowing as members of the Brigade of Guards — including Brigadier Andrew Parker-Bowles and the Queen’s former private secretary Lord Fellowes — rubbed shoulders with polo club grooms.

Other mourners included Sir David Frost and the former England cricketer Robin Smith.

The Duchess of York walked to the church with her daughter Beatrice, but Eugenie was unable to attend.

Earlier in the day a private family funeral was held in the Major’s home village of Dummer, which was attended by Prince Charles and the writer Jilly Cooper.

Major Ferguson, who regularly played in the annual cricket match in aid of the Dogmersfield charity The Samantha Dickson Research Trust for childhood brain cancer, planned the services himself — from the readings and rousing hymns to the television theme tunes played by the band of the Lifeguards.

He died of a heart attack at the Hampshire Clinic in Basingstoke, aged 71, after battling prostate cancer for seven years.