Coronation invite a lifelong puzzle for John

In this platinum jubilee year for the Queen, there's something Shropshire lad John Jones, who is now 89, still doesn't know, and will never now know.

John's day at the Coronation provided lifelong memories.
John's day at the Coronation provided lifelong memories.

Why, he has always wondered, was he invited to attend her Coronation?

"I got an invitation out of the blue," recalls John, who was born and raised in Oswestry but lives these days in a village near Bidford-on-Avon.

Whatever the answer, June 2, 1953 – the Queen ascended to the throne in 1952 and the Coronation was the following year – was a day which left him with many memories.

John's day at the Coronation provided lifelong memories.

He was working as a railway clerk in the goods department at Oswestry, but was also the young honorary secretary of a committee in north Shropshire responsible for handing out government money to youth organisations in the area.

When the invitation came in he assumed he was representing that local group and he travelled by train to meet his host and escort for the great occasion, staying with him in, he thinks, Romford.

In the early hours of the following morning they caught the Tube into London, getting close to Westminster Abbey.

John Jones – seen here as a Butlin's Redcoat in 1956.

"We went through a number of security barriers. Nobody was allowed to drive a car or anything into the area. I found myself in a seat in a temporary stand right up against the door of Westminster Abbey. My feet were only a few feet away from the main door," he recalls.

Despite drizzly weather, he remembers Queen Salote of Tonga having a beaming smile as she arrived in an open coach.

The Coronation Day crowd in Trafalgar Square, some using periscopes to get a glimpse of the Queen's coach as it passes.

After a while, seeking to improve their position, his host had a plan.

"He said 'let's go across the road and look straight in through the doors of Westminster Abbey.' We did. Nobody stopped us. He was a Londoner who knew what he was doing.

"We went across the road coming up to the abbey. We were looking straight into the open abbey doors and could see inside. It was a bit dim. That meant when the final coach came with the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh we were within about 10ft or so of the coach, when other people were further back."

Although they could not see the ceremony, they could follow proceedings because some people behind them had a small portable radio.

As the now married royal couple re-emerged, a shaft of sunlight broke through, and they began their journey to Buckingham Palace at the head of a long parade – a parade Mr Jones and his host sneakily joined, seizing their chance when the band at the end passed.

"He said 'when the band gets to us, do as I do.' The band was coming up and he said 'right' and jumped onto the back row of the Guards band, to the displeasure of the bandsman who said for us to get out. But we did not and we stayed in until we got to the top end of Green Park. It meant we got through the crowds without any problem."

They then caught the Tube back to Romford where his host's family were watching the procession, which was still weaving its way back to Buckingham Palace, on a tiny black and white set.

"They were asking us what colour was this, and what colour was that. Sometimes we made it up and sometimes we didn't."

A little later they returned to Buckingham Palace and saw the royals come out on the balcony. The following morning the family took Mr Jones to Paddington station and he caught the train home to Shropshire.

Reflecting on the day John says: "I never knew, and never will know, how it came about, but I'm very glad it did.

"I didn't know what I was nominated for until I was in the stand and found the rest of the seats were for one member of each of the Commonwealth countries representing the youth of that country. That was when I discovered I was not there representing a small area of North Shropshire."

Indeed, he discovered he was representing the entire youth of Britain.

Mr Jones, whose father Harold Jones was a West Brom footballer, went on to have a spell as a Redcoat at Butlin's at Pwllheli, and landed a place at Worcester teacher training college, during which time he began singing in the city's cathedral regularly. His first job was as an assistant lecturer at the college of electronics at the top secret Royal Radar Establishment at Malvern, and he was one of the initial members of staff at Pontesbury secondary school.

Most Read

Most Read

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.

Top Stories

More from the Shropshire Star

UK & International News