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The day a Shropshire bobby turned his back on royalty

By Toby Neal | Features | Published:

Fifty years ago a young Shropshire police constable did his royal duty – and turned his back on Prince Charles.

In July 1969 the investiture of Prince Charles took place at Caernarfon Castle, and 20-year-old Plen Evans, based at Ludlow, was hand-picked to be on duty at the event.

"There were officers from different forces, and I suppose because I spoke Welsh, they asked me to go up there. There was a group of us who went up to provide security," said Plen, whose full first name is the uncommon Welsh name of Plenydd.

"We went up there for three days. I remember we went on a bus to Caernarfon, picking up a few PCs on the way, and we were billeted in a primary school or something on the outskirts."

Plen, who lives at Telford Estate, Shrewsbury, said: "On the day of the investiture I was about 100 yards or so from the main castle entrance. I stood there on this one spot for about three hours.

"On each side of the road it was lined with Welsh Guardsman, policeman, Welsh Guardsman, policeman, and so on, and the only bit of exercise the Welsh Guards had was that every 20 minutes they would switch with one another, and then stand to attention for another 20 minutes.

"The Welsh Guard opposite me started swaying and next thing, down, bang – he fainted. A stretcher came and he was whisked away and another Welsh Guard went into his position within minutes.

"I was told that if a Welsh Guard of military person fainted on royal engagement they would get fined.

"Our duty, as there had been a bit of trouble with Welsh nationalism, was when the carriages came we had to turn and face the crowd in case we spotted somebody doing something.

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"All the carriages came straight past our backs and straight into the castle – I had to turn my back on the royalty.

"In those days there was nobody with any cameras and I don't have any photos, unfortunately.

"I do remember, and this must have been the day before the investiture, that we police lads went off on a bus and they dropped me off by a bridge on the outskirts of Caernarfon, in case somebody planted explosives or anything like that.

"There were no radios or anything in those days and they said they would pick me up later, which they did a few hours later."

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Plen was born and bred in the Mid Wales village of Pontrobert, and joined the police in Staffordshire as a cadet before transferring to West Mercia.

He played football for a Staffordshire police cadet side which beat Port Vale, managed by Stanley Matthews, 2-0, with Plen scoring one of the goals. He also played football for West Mercia Police for about six years.

After being stationed at Ludlow for three years he moved to Shrewsbury, and later Gobowen, before leaving the force.

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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