The Coronation I Was (Near) There
We had a holiday from school and our grandmother from Aberdeen was coming to stay. This alone was enough to excite my brother and myself but to find that Gran was going to stay at home while the other 4 in the family, mother, father and two boys, were going to London was even more exciting for an eleven year old. We travelled by Southdown coach stopping midway for a half hour or so. Arriving at Victoria coach station in the wee small hours for a young lad was daunting but our parents shepherded us past Buckingham Palace and then down the Mall at about 3 o'clock. I can still hear the paper sellers crying 'Everest conquered, Everest conquered!' Little did I know that I would come to know one of the team, Wilfred Noyce, very well at my next school. We walked on through Admiralty Arch to the corner into Whitehall and joined the crowd.
This was my first experience of a big London crowd which was already nearly filling the pavement so we were towards the back. However, this was the best of British crowds; friendly to everyone and in good spirits by no rowdiness. There were several children and very soon we were all eased to the front to sit with our feet in the gutter just behind the row of policemen. In those days they would face not the crowd but at the line of the future procession. In front of the policemen our section had naval ratings lining the route. Everyone remembers it was wet but the sailors were not allowed to move their hands from their rifles or their slides while rain ran off their blancoed hats down their faces. This was cue for the policemen to get their handkerchiefs out and wipe the unfortunate sailors' faces. We never felt isolated from our parents as the crowd would allow us to move around but there was not much room to move so we sat still. We always had to keep behind the row of police though one little girl did sneak forward a bit and she can still be spotted on the official film of the Coronation but very briefly. The crowds wer every helpful to all around and when it came to sandwich time they were handed to the front with the cry "it's for the two lads at the front" and no thought of someone taking a passing bite!
During the morning the weather was miserable but the excitement made up for that. Throughout the route of the procession were loud speakers ready to broadcast the service in Westminster Abbey. During the morning there was a continuous commentary about the ongoing preparations and then the procession itself which passed through Admiralty Arch then across Trafalgar Square and into Northumberland Avenue which we could see but at a distance. to cheer the crowd hopeful remarks were made at times about the weather. On one such occasion the commentator announced 'There is a small, a very small patch of blue sky over...' A tremendous cheer went up all around but still the rain came.
Our vantage point was best as the procession returned form the Abbey turning left in front of us so all the coaches had to slow down. In fact at one point it had to stop for some reason and at that moment Queen Salote of Tonga was in front of us. She had refused to have the coach hood raised because she said the crowds were in the rain to see the guests so she should be like them, so it is said.
After the procession had passed the crowds peacefully and contentedly wandered away and we made our way back to the bus station. I don't remember the journey home. I guess both boys were sound asleep! We did not see any replay of the day's events that evening - the television tube had blown by not until Gran had seen the actual moment of crowning. Well I was near there!