Shropshire Star

Ex-soldier recalls marching in the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

A former soldier who was selected to march at Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953, has spoken of the momentous day ahead of this week's royal event.

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John Jones pictured third from the right on the lead up to the Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II, 1953

John Jones, now aged 92, who was born in Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain and brought up in Llanymynech, was one of 10 soldiers from his regiment – the Second Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers – who took part in the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

He was 22 at the time and was one of the youngest sergeants in the Welsh Brigade who took part in the celebration, which he said was a great honour.

John Jones pictured third from the right on the lead up to the Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II, 1953

Recalling the build-up to the event, John said: "The coronation route was about 15 miles through London, so it required a high level of fitness.

"The 10 who were selected were sent to Wrexham to train for a month before the coronation to ensure they could handle the march. This involved cross country runs and long marches in full kit, rifles and the regimental colours.

"There would be no stopping on the route on the day. Anyone who failed the fitness training would be replaced.

"After the fitness training they were sent to another base in Birmingham to join up with the other regiments participating in the ceremony to practice with them.

Queen Elizabeth II during her coronation in Westminster Abbey, London

"All of the training was done on the parade ground/square to rehearse the intricate movements that were required on the march.

"Several days before the coronation all those taking part moved to Earls Court which was crammed with three-tier bunk beds.

"They were well looked after, catering wise, with the food being supplied by the Lyons Company.

"The week before they had to get up early to march and familiarise themselves with route. This was the only way they could rehearse – very much like the rehearsals for Charles' coronation this week."

John went on to say that London was vibrant – it wasn't long since the Second World War had ended – with thousands of visitors congregating from across the world.

John Jones can be seen in the second row, third person in. Picture taken on Coronation day for HM Queen Elizabeth II 1953

The 92-year-old said that Britain was still rationing at the time and so it was an opportunity for people to celebrate together.

He said that everything was timed to perfection, with heads of state from around the world invited to attend and those from Africa and the Commonwealth leaders wearing their national dress.

"On coronation day the soldiers rose very early, had very little breakfast and hardly any fluids. They would not be able to stop en route to relieve themselves," John added.

"They formed at 6am. It was raining heavily so they were issued with ponchos, then marched to Constitution Hill.

"The parade started at 12 when the Queen left Westminster Abbey and the procession formed in front of the royal carriage.

Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953 was the reason many people bought their first TV set

"By the time the Queen left the Abbey it had stopped raining so the ponchos were discarded. The route was absolutely packed and the crowd was ecstatic and very noisy.

"There were commentators, probably the BBC, along the route providing commentary as the procession marched past.

"The planning was so meticulous, they arrived back at Earls Court at 5.55pm, five minutes ahead of schedule.

"There was a mad rush to get to the toilets after they had discarded their rifles. There were some who did wet themselves but dried out en route."

After the parade, John went out with his friends to celebrate and witness the fireworks display.

Throughout his 37-year career in the British Army, John met the Queen on a number of occasions.

On the Silver Jubilee year in 1977, he was awarded the Jubilee Medal to commemorate the event and three years later he received his MBE, named in the 1980 Queen's Birthday Honours list.

John grew up in the border village of Llanymynech, where his family ran The Dolphin Hotel, now The Dolphin Inn. He retired from the army in 1985 and now lives in Camberley, in Surrey.

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