The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville


Festival Edition 2013

Memories of Coronation Day

Tuesday 2nd June, 1953

I was serving in the Royal Navy, under training in HMS Collingwood a shore establishment near Fareham in Hampshire. A contingent of young servicemen was allocated a position on the Queen Victoria Memorial opposite the main entrance to Buckingham Palace.

Arriving at Waterloo Station, it was a short walk to the Union Jack Club where overnight accommodation had been arranged. Breakfast started very early in the morning of Coronation Day and the sensational news of the conquest of Mount Everest was the main topic of conversation. Although the final assault on the summit took place a week earlier the news was not announced until Coronation Day. Edmund Hillary, from New Zealand, with his Nepalese companion sherpa Tensing Norgay reached the summit of Everest on Monday 25th May. For his achievement, Edmund Hillary received a knighthood, Tensing Norgay was awarded the MBE.

At about 6am Army lorries arrived to take the servicemen to their allocated positions. The weather was overcast but it was not raining.

After the motor car procession had passed by the carriages began to leave Buckingham Palace. In one carriage was Queen Salote from the island of Tonga, this tall lady was an instant success with the cheering crowds. The State Coach, conveying HM The Queen with HRH The Duke of Edinburgh left Buckingham Palace at arriving at Westminster Abbey at for the Coronation Service.

On Christmas Day 1066 the Queen’s direct ancestor, her twenty seventh Great Grandfather, William the Conqueror was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey.

After the Coronation Service the Royal Procession departed from Westminster Abbey at arriving back at Buckingham Palace at By this time the weather had become cold and very wet.

Transport arrived to take the servicemen back to barracks or to London railway stations. It was chaos at Waterloo Station and we were told to make our own way as best as we could. I managed to get a train to Alton where I had hoped to get to Fareham on Meon Valley railway line, but the trains had been suspended for the day. There was no alternative but to hitch-hike, which was not uncommon for servicemen in uniform in those days. Just outside Alton a car stopped and a kind lady and gentleman offered me a lift to Southampton. From there it was an easy journey back to Fareham. I arrived back at HMS Collingwood wet, cold and hungry, but it had been an historic and unforgettable day.

Coronation Review of the Fleet at Spithead, Monday 15th June 1953

A fleet of 283 ships assembled at Spithead representing the British, Commonwealth and Foreign Navies. Ships, other than warships, represented all aspects of British maritime life. The fleet was anchored in four long lines from a point south of the Naval War Memorial, Southsea, and west to Cowes.

The heavy cruiser USS Baltimore represented the United States. An American admiral and a British admiral were in conversation when the American said “How is the World’s second largest navy”? The British admiral promptly replied “Fine, how is the World’s second best”?

I was fortunate to be in a party from HMS Collingwood sent to the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable to join her ship’s company in lining the flight deck as the Queen sailed past in the frigate HMS Surprise. On the order ‘Three cheers for Her Majesty’ the reply was to be ‘Hurrah’ and not ‘Hooray’.

At HMS Surprise entered the Review lines and at the ship anchored to enable The Queen to witness the fly-past of 37 aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm. On the completion of the Review of the Fleet the party from HMS Collingwood was taken ashore by tender.

In the evening The Queen dined onboard the battleship HMS Vanguard and later witnessed the illumination of the Fleet followed by a firework display.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh returned to Portsmouth in HMS Surprise the following morning.

Peter May