Shropshire Star

'A memory to last forever': Telford soldier on delivering iconic moments of coronation

A Telford soldier who played a major role in The King's coronation procession has spoken of his immense pride after delivering a 'faultless' event full of iconic moments.

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Garrison Sergeant Major Andrew ‘Vern’ Stokes with his BAFTA award at Ironbridge Rotary Club dinner where he was guest speaker. Photo: Dave Bagnall.

Garrison Sergeant Major Andrew 'Vern' Stokes, who took charge of military and ceremonial aspects of the historic day, said memories including the thunderous three cheers given by 4,000 troops to King Charles III and Queen Camilla in the Buckingham Palace garden would long live in his memory.

"I couldn't be happier with how things went and I thought it [the coronation] was faultless from start to end," said GSM Stokes, from Madeley.

The Diamond Jubilee State Coach, accompanied by the Sovereign's Escort of the Household Cavalry, including Andrew Stokes, travels along The Mall in the King's Procession ahead of the coronation ceremony of King Charles III and Queen Camilla in central London.

"It was incredibly difficult to plan in some ways but so effective.

"Watching the troops march across Westminster Bridge to music on Saturday morning provided some incredible images of service personnel.

"The crowd were fantastic, so happy and supportive throughout, and the coronation procession was incredible and worked really well.

"I was really worried when writing the plan that the music wouldn't work because we were doing something different, getting everyone to step off at the same time to the same music. It was always going to be a challenge but that worked perfectly."

King Charles III waves as he leaves the balcony of Buckingham Palace, London, following the coronation. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

But GSM Stokes said the 'garden moment' at Buckingham Palace stood out as an iconic memory.

"To get 4,500 through a small gate in a finite amount of time and get them formed up in good order, it worked really well and topped off the day," he said.

"It was a really important moment because, if we had not included it, you would have had 500 Commonwealth soldiers, who had come from all four corners of the globe, who would have just marched at the front of the procession, turned left at Buckingham Palace and headed back to Waterloo.

"It would have been a huge disappointment for them not to be able to see The King.

"And I think for The King as well, he was at the back of the procession and had no idea what preceded him so for him to be able to see all those who participated, it would have been quite a moment."

The military procession

He added: "The three cheers were fantastic. The echo was incredible and The King's response, with his chest puffed out with pride and his chin lifted up. It said to me that it was a job well done.

"He just looked across Buckingham Palace garden with sheer delight on his face.

"I am just incredibly proud of everyone who took part and it really was a memory that will last forever.

"Saturday was incredible and I don't think, as a nation, we'll see something of that scale for quite some time, certainly not for the rest of my tenure in this job."

However, for GSM Stokes, the hard work doesn't stop.

Training now starts for preparations for The King's birthday on June 17, the first King's Birthday Parade at Horse Guards for 70 years.

The military procession

"We are spending time now looking at how we delivered the coronation," said GSM Stokes. "The whole coronation was a culmination of all we had learnt from the Platinum Jubilee and The Queen's funeral.

"We now switch and start delivering training for the King's Birthday Parade, which isn't so far away.

"We want that to be immaculate. There will be a lot of hard work going into it so I will still be very busy."