A Guardsman's Memory of the Coronation
I was serving my National Service in the Scots Guards between 1952 and 1954. At the time of the Coronation, I was stationed at Victoria Barracks Windsor, but spent the night before at Chelsea Barracks.
Leading up to the big day, I pressed trousers for two days as I was very good at it, while at the same time, others were doing boots, brasses and webbing.
On the day, Reveille was at 4.30am with breakfast at 5.00am where we were only allowed one mug of tea. On parade at 6.00am, ready to march to The Mall at 6.30am. We were halted at Victoria Station to put on our capes as it had started raining.
We halted in the middle of The Mall in ranks of four, the order came to form two ranks with a left and right turn. All together, shoulder to shoulder we marched to the sides of The Mall like a solid wall. The people who had been there all night to get the best spots thought they wouldn’t see a thing! With another order left and right turn, we then marched four paces apart much to the public’s relief!
At about 9.00am we de-caped by grabbing the neck piece and flicking them onto The Mall where the horses had been up and down, they all had to be cleaned!
If we wanted a comfort break, we stood to attention and were marched off. At about noon, we went in shifts for lunch, but again, only one mug of tea was allowed!
During the afternoon the weather improved, at this time it was very relaxed and the crowd started giving us food – the Officers and NCOs turned a blind eye to it!
When the Queen came back from Westminster Abbey in the Golden State Coach, all of us naturally turned our heads to look at her, which we’re obviously not supposed to do! The Duke of Gloucester who was our Colonel-in-Chief was riding on horseback and put us all on a charge for doing so!
Gladly that didn’t come to anything.
It was a very long day, 19 hours in all, although I was very glad that I was a Guardsman at that time with a front row “seat” to a very special occasion – a day I will never forget. As we were about to return to the barracks, my friend’s father, who was in the crowd, tapped me on the shoulder and asked me where his son Reg was! How he picked me out in all those Guardsmen I don’t know. Reg was part of the procession and was actually back at Wellington Barracks by that time.
The next day it was back to the real world, Guard Duty at Windsor Castle.
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