The day I witnessed the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in London in 1953.
A momentous event occurred in 1953, a year that was to see a new era the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. I was living in Victoria London not far from St James Park, Constitution Hill, Trafalgar Square and Hyde Park. I was now in a position to benefit from a new experience.
Days before the Coronation there were thousands of people coming into London from all over the country. These people would camp out all night and all day along the route which the procession would take, starting from Marble Arch, down Park Lane, around Hyde Park corner, along Green Park, onto Trafalgar Square, down Whitehall and from Parliament Square back through Admiralty Arch, up the Mall and on to Buckingham Palace. They camped out there for up to four days and nights. I did not camp out but on the day of the Coronation I went to Marble Arch and worked my way through the crowd to the best position, right on the edge of Park Lane, where I could see everything taking place.
This day carries a lasting memory not just because of the Coronation, but for what I learned from the procession.
Thousands of servicemen were camped in Hyde Park for weeks, preparing for the Coronation and when the procession started the pomp and circumstance was something to behold, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The Queen’s regiment with well-groomed horses decorated in regalia of various colours, was followed by splendid carriages, carrying the nobility and the Queen’s household, then the Queen appeared in a golden coach, pulled by six white horses.
Behind the Queen was the Queen Salote of Tonga, who was six feet six inches tall and stood up in her open carriage, she brought colour, spectacle and light to the Coronation.
The cheering of the crowd was overwhelming the atmosphere was electric, but to me the greatest thrill of all was what followed in the procession. There were battalions of all descriptions representing all the countries with the British Empire.
I could not believe there were so many black contingents but I counted around 30. They were all dressed in their uniforms signifying their country of origin but what puzzled me was that before the Coronation, no one knew that these battalions existed in the British Army and since the Coronation none of these Battalions have been mentioned anywhere in the media, not even on Armistice Day except for the Gurkha’s from Nepal.
When the War is spoken about it is as if only white soldiers fought, nothing is mentioned about these black people, who were the backbone of the British Empire.
The young people of today do not know because they were never taught that black people were at the heart of the Empire, or that they fought in any wars.
Today I am sure that if these black people were to come to England they would be classed as unwanted immigrants.
Later that day after the Queen had been crowned, I manoeuvred my way to Queen Victoria’s statue outside Buckingham Palace, when the Queen and Prince Philip appeared on the Palace Balcony waving to their subjects, there was one huge roar from the crowd, which had to be seen to be believed, these subjects bowed down to them as if they were Gods of the earth.