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Memories of a Monarch

In days of reflection following the death of HRH Queen Elizabeth II, ExtraCare residents have been leaving messages and sharing stories about their experiences with the monarch. Earlsdon Park Village resident John Hinde, 90, had a special experience to recall.

“I joined the Grenadier Guards, the oldest regiment in the British Army in November 1950 and spent 12 years serving King, Queen, and Country; two and a half years of which were spent overseas on active service.

Following the death of King George IV in February 1952 my commanding office advised the battalion that the future Queen had requested 50 members of the battalion to take part in her coronation which took place on 2nd June 1953 at Westminster Abbey in London. I was chosen to take part as I was one of the longest serving members.

I returned to England, from the Middle East, to take part in the coronation. We endured a 17 ½ hour flight before landing at Blackbush Military Airport at 4am in the morning both frozen and hungry where we were transferred to Chelsea Barracks to prepare for the event.

Training for the battalion consisted of 10 – 15 miles runs each day to build up stamina. At this point in my army career, I was a corporal in the Grenadier Guards and stood 7’3” tall in my regimental bearskin!

After around 7 weeks of training the battalion were transferred to Earls Court in London to start final preparations for the coronation.

On the morning of the coronation the battalion were woken at 3am, fitted out in our ceremonial dress and then we started marching to our holding point at Constitution Hill reaching the location at around 9am.

At around 10:30am the battalion got into position; we were in front of the Royal Regiment of Horse Guards who were escorting the Queen in the solid gold state coach (which is only used for coronations) as it was pulled by eight grey horses.

I was one of approximately 300 members of the Grenadier Guards forming the escort party on the day. After escorting the Queen to Westminster Abbey, the battalion marched back to Wellington Barracks where we were given tea and sandwiches. When we had finished the refreshments, we were marched back to Westminster Abbey in time for Princess Elizabeth to emerge as Queen Elizabeth II.

On the return journey from Westminster Abbey the battalion marched through Hyde Park along with 15,000 commonwealth troops. We marched 25 miles around London (in full ceremonial dress) – the only relief we were allowed was at regular intervals and on command, we were able to move our rifles from one side to the other!

The group finally arrived back at Wellington Barracks soaked through and tired out. On arrival we were told to clean our tunics and be ready to march back to Chelsea Barracks early the next morning; this order did not go down well with the troops and eventually our Commanding Officer changed his mind and told the battalion that we could change into our khaki uniforms and go out and celebrate.

We ended up in the Victoria Arms pub, with lots of Chelsea Pensioners who celebrated the occasion; London was ‘swinging’ at that time and the troops had a great night out.

Two days later Queen Elizabeth II sent a message to the Regiment thanking us for the part we played in the coronation. An experience I’ve never forgotten.”