I was at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in my senior term in 1953. My intake was told that we would line the route of the Coronation of H.M. The Queen. We became known as the “Coronation Intake”. Unfortunately I did not keep notes of the event, but have many happy memories of the day.
On Coronation day we went from Camberley to London on a special train. We arrived at Vauxhall Bridge Station at 4a.m. and were served breakfast - a hard tack biscuit and a small mug of tea. The experts had decided it would be a long day and this meal would reduce the need to visit toilets.
It was raining as we marched from Vauxhall to our positions. My sector was immediately opposite the main entrance to Westminster Abbey. When we arrived there was already a big crowd of spectators. The rain continued. We had been issued with waterproof capes (Army ground sheets) to wear. We had rehearsed drills to put capes on and to remove them. A contingent of Marines stood in front of us. Each service provided a guard of honour outside the Abbey.
While we waited for the Royal Party to arrive there was always lots of activity to watch as guests arrived. The rain continued. Before the Royal Party arrived we were ordered to “remove capes”. We took off our capes and placed them at our heels. By this time it looked as if somebody was pouring milk over the marines in front of us - white liquid was flowing off their white helmets and running down the backs of their blue uniforms. We were kept active by drill movements and saluting V.I.P.s as they arrived.
When the Royal Party arrived we enjoyed watching the ladies-in-waiting stepping down from the high horse drawn carriages. They showed a lot of leg!! Once the service started we were ordered to replace our capes, but they had disappeared into the spectators. By this time it did not matter, we were soaked to the skin. It was now possible to go to the toilet. To do so you had to find at least two others - it was rehearsed drill. Contact was made by tapping the rifle butt on the ground, you then grounded your rifle, fell in and marched off to the toilet in threes,.
I cannot remember too much about what happened after the service which had been relayed to us outside. I can remember arriving back to Sandhurst in the afternoon. As soon as we were dismissed, we dashed for our accommodation, threw off our soaking clothes, dried our rifles and changed into civvies before running to Camberley Station and catching a train back up to London.
London was alive with civilians and troops from around the Commonwealth. It was one great party. I caught the “milk train” from Waterloo back to Camberley, in time to wash and brush up and be on parade for just another day.
It had been a great day. A one off event I was privileged to have experienced.