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Remembering 2012: When the Queen reigned and the sun shone at RAF Cosford

By Toby Neal | Telford | Features | Published:

A wonderful day in a year of cheers. There has never been a Shropshire royal visit to touch it.

Hip hip... Three cheers for the Queen at Cosford

Two years in the planning, the Queen's diamond jubilee party at RAF Cosford was a royal occasion of colour, spectacle, pageantry and, most unusually for the summer of 2012 - which was incredibly and memorably wet - glorious sunshine.

And the crowning glory was that the Queen and Prince Philip were there in person, and in a happy and relaxed mood as the crowds gathered to say a big thank you for her illustrious 60-year reign amid a carnival atmosphere.

The highlight of the celebrations on July 12 was a display featuring up to 5,000 schoolchildren, all in colour-coded school groups, forming a half-mile long "reign-bow" procession, headed by a floral display created by Shropshire Horticultural Society.

The diamond jubilee party at RAF Cosford was attended by the Queen and Prince Philip and crowds flocked for a glimpse of the royal visitors and to enjoy the carnival atmosphere

In a Stewart Parvin pink coat over a mint and pink dress with matching hat by Rachel Trevor Morgan, the Queen smiled radiantly throughout the three-hour stop.

The youngsters set free their inventiveness and imagination in the procession, which was said to be the biggest event of its kind ever held in Shropshire.

For instance, children from Martin Wilson Primary School in Shrewsbury were dressed as heralds accompanied an enormous 10ft high crown, which had been specially created by all the pupils at the school for the occasion.

A canine contribution to the pageant brought a particular smile to Her Majesty's face. It was 18 Pembroke Corgis along with their owners, who were mostly from Market Drayton.

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These Corgis in the pageant drew a royal smile

There was a day-long programme of music and dance, and hangars were packed with exhibits and exhibitors telling the story of 60 years in Shropshire during her reign.

With mass involvement in the event, it was a real people's party.

Up to 40,000 people were there. It was all part of a diamond, golden, summer for Britain, with both celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s reign, and the greatest show on earth which came to town in the form of the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games.

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The Queen was flanked by two 6ft 6in tall teddy bears, dressed as a Beefeater and a guardsman, when she first took to the pavilion to view the pageant. The bears were produced by Ironbridge-based toy makers Merrythought.

The royal couple had arrived by helicopter earlier than planned at 11.25 and huge crowds lined the route as they made their way to the Cold War Museum on site.

They had lunch with about 90 VIP guests before watching the procession which, as well as the schoolchildren, featured town criers from across Shropshire, as well as various vintage vehicles, including a steam-powered lorry.

Lacey Corbett, aged four, of Donnington, at the big day.

A team led by the Lord Lieutenant of Shropshire and made up of Shropshire Council, Telford & Wrekin Council, RAF Cosford and RAF Cosford Museum, organised the free event.

Lord Lieutenant Mr Algernon Heber-Percy said afterwards that it had been a wonderful day and they had been lucky with the weather.

Group Captain Jamie Johnston, station commander at RAF Cosford, said: “It has been an enormous honour and privilege for RAF Cosford to have played its part in Shropshire’s Jubilee Pageant, a once-in-a-lifetime event, that has demonstrated the county’s appreciation of and support for Her Majesty.”

In an interesting local link, the Queen was wearing her treasured Flame Lily brooch in honour of its county connections.

A peacock on parade in the pageant

As a young princess-turned-Queen, she had worn the priceless diamond and platinum brooch made by Cartier jeweller Eric Kippin when she returned to Britain from Kenya following the death of her father King George VI in 1952, the personal tragedy which was also the starting point for her long reign.

Eric Kippin died in 1998. With his son Leslie living near Shrewsbury, North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson had asked if it would be possible for the Queen to wear it on her visit to the county.

Leslie was there at Cosford to see her wearing his father's finest creation.

Chloe Willis, aged four, from Cosford, prepares to hand a posy to the Queen.

It had been the Queen's first visit to Shropshire since 2003 and in a letter of thanks later, Buckingham Palace described it as a “wonderful day”.

The Palace added: “The pageant lent the day a celebratory atmosphere and the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh enjoyed the displays and ideas that made up the pageant and were delighted to share the day with all those who attended the event.”

A great day was topped by a call for three cheers, joined in by all the dignitaries on the platform, to create a defining image of a memorable occasion with a celebratory atmosphere.

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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