History

Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II – Reminiscences

CrownWE ASKED for your memories of the Coronation of the Queen in 1953 – the following has been sent in response. Many thanks to Brian, Malc and Jim:

As a 15 year old living in Sheriff Highway, Hedon, the three Ripley’s did not possess a TV (until 1955) therefore we went on the Bus to Ceylon Street, Marfleet, where my Auntie Bessie and Uncle Fred lived.

We all crowded into the back living room with relatives and friends, many sitting on the floor, to watch the proceedings, on the small black & white screen. They managed to feed the hungry nosed ‘gang’ whilst we waved Union Jack’s to the ‘Tele. Bessie, and my Mam Gladys, probably did not see it all as they spent time feeding the gathered multitude with tea, sandwiches and cakes. But all the women chipped in with the grub!

I also remember a number of the blokes vacated to go to the pub for a few pints – but not me, as I was only a mere 15 year old then! – but that completed a very happy and historic day had by all.

Malc Ripley, of Hull.

I have a picture in my head of being at the end of my road (Walsingham Road, Mitcham, Surrey) we sat at old wooden trestle tables and benches and the grandmas came from the houses with food and then it rained and we went in doors.

I had no idea why I was there until at the Silver Jubilee I was watching on the TV with my Mum and they said it was a pity that it rained at 3pm. I then asked my Mum if that was why I was at the end of the road. Of course was her reply.

It took me 25 years to put a label to my memory it has a place a date and a time and I was just 2y 4m 0d old

Thanks

Brian Ansell
Aged 62y 4m 0d on 2nd June 2013

And this from Jim Uney, of being in a very different place on Coronation Day!

Stoned in Paphos, but not Through Social drinking!

For three weeks preceding HM The Queens Coronation on 2nd of June 1953, I along with other members of 30 Field Squadron, 35 Engineering Regiment, Royal Engineers, marched up and down the only decent road in Polemidia camp Cyprus, in an attempt to satisfy our Squadron Sergeant Major that we could correctly carry out a drill movement called “Fire a Fer de Sware”, (Yorkshire Spelling) whereas the front and middle ranks of three fired a volley, starting at the Right Marker and continuing to the last man in the front rank and commencing immediately with the man to the rear of the the Right Marker and again down the middle rank to the last man.

After numerous attempts, once including placing the rear rank, which was full of skivers who just didn’t wish to participate in such complicated manoeuvres, being placed at the front, which caused them to question The SSM as to “if he knew what he was doing!” After many attempts we finally succeeded in meeting his required standard to be told that we were to celebrate by parading at Paphos on The 2nd of June.

With Col Abdul Nasser and his associates wanting an end to British involvement in The Canal Zone of Egypt and the removal of approximately 80,000 British troops, our Squadron, being a working group, been posted to Cyprus to commence preparing facilities for their withdrawal, our first job was to provide a water supply by pipeline from near Troodos to the small village of Episcopi on the coast. Needless to say our kit soon became dilapidated living under canvas near the villages of Anoyira and Pachna and our “Best Boots” were soon the worse for wear. But we were expected to rejuvenate them to the high standard suitable for a ceremonial parade such as the Coronation Day celebrations.

Rehearsing our drill movement, again, on our arrival at Paphos on the afternoon of Coronation eve in the picturesque surroundings of an ancient castellated walled fort, The SSM was pleased enough with our display to tell us that the rest of the day was ours, but behave yourselves.. and get it right tomorrow! Two pals and myself chose to make for the harbour side and photograph the skyline of minarets and domes as I remember, with the Box Brownie type cameras of the day. It had been a lovely day with a glorious sunset.

At dusk and within the hour, we met up with about twenty of our lads being chased by two hundred or more young people, armed with pick axe shafts and other suitable pieces of timber. They were chanting “Enosis, Enosis” pronounced, En-o-cee, of course we didn’t know at that time what it was all about but as the crowd soon became agitated by our presence, we made a quick run to the safety of the old fort where we were to be billeted until after the Coronation Day Parade. Other returning personnel made it back without incident to line up in the enclosed yard, with the now enlarged crowd outside throwing anything which came to hand over the wall onto our unprotected heads. We were then told that, Enosis meant Union, in this case, union with Greece, something which the organization had been trying to do for a number of years.

With the intervention of a Cypriot Police officer asking for assistance to quell the disturbance, ten or twelve troops volunteered to help, but this had a negative effect, in fact it made matters worse, so the same rear rank voice who had told The SSM, that “he didn’t know what he was doing” when we practiced our complicated drill, now offered the question that “why don’t we all go?”

We were placed on active service and The Queens Regulations were read and we were reminded that we were in a British Crown Colony but to “look after ourselves”, we were issued with our Lee-Enfield 303 rifles, but no ammunition, we only had blanks anyhow and they were for use for the Coronation day parade.

The suggestion made was for the remaining members to charge out through the large double gates, this caused mayhem amongst the rioters outside, with many scattering and leaving the area. Various incidents of stone throwing continued and I was asked by a Cypriot police officer to fire over the heads of some troublesome youths, showing him that my rifle contained no ammunition, he quickly made his intentions clear that he wished us to leave the area. Pursuing other rioters up and down streets in the city centre, streets which they were well acquainted with, continued until the small hours, until gradually the situation became calm enough for us to retire back to the old fort. Unfortunately, I was then chosen with eleven others to go on guard, part of which entailed crawling round a graveyard, where we spent a disturbed night dodging bricks and bottles, thrown by some of the more persistent rioters.

Coronation Day was a lovely warm day, we carried out our parade but with some men of the squadron withdrawn for security reasons, there was a distinct feeling of hostility from the crowd that had gathered, with outbreaks of stone throwing continuing during the march past. The day seemed a bit of a damp squib compared to events of the previous evening, however, It was a relief to board the open-backed QL Bedford wagons to go back to our camp at Polemidia near Limassol, but we were subjected to more missiles hurled at us as we left the town.

Travelling back close to the site of Aphrodite’s birthplace at Petra Tou Romiou, it was remarked that The Goddess of Love had been notable by her absence in our case, but in the following years much worse events were to take place with the formation of EOKA, who commenced activities against all British Forces in Cyprus on the first of April 1955.

On September the Tenth 1953 there was a major earthquake in the Paphos region with Sixty people killed, 30 Field Squadron, Royal Engineers were the first helpers there,beating the Royal Navy, part of the Mediterranean Fleet who had been on exercise in the area. We destroyed some property which was deemed to be dangerous, and gave out tents and help where we could, I gave a young Turkish lad some packs of Hard Tack Biscuits for washing my mess tins out and I can still remember the look of thanks on his face.

Jim Uney.

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