Welcome to the Orihuela Costa and District Branch of The Royal British Legion
By Ted Marsh
On the 24th March 1953 at RAF Cardington, I was just 17½ years of age when I signed up for five years regular service in the Royal Air Force.
My first full day in the services was taken up with interviews, paperwork and getting kitted out with uniforms and then on day three, together with about 40 other confused young men, we were all put on a train to our new home at RAF Bridgnorth in the West Midlands, where we were to stay for the duration of our basic training. As a southerner from Margate in Kent, just about as far south as you can get, I had never been North of London.
On arriving at Bridgnorth we were sorted out into billets of two rooms, one for 14 recruits with a bunk at the end for the drill instructor. We were each allocated a bed, a large locker and small mat. All our civilian clothes were packed and sent home, not to be seen again for ten weeks!
We were called together for a briefing when we were told about what was in store for the next 8 weeks, ne real surprises, just hours of drill, cleaning and PT. However what did surprise us rather was the announcement at the end of the briefing when we were told that we were No 2 Coronation Flight and our Passing Out Parade would be held in London on the 2nd of June.
At the end of our 8 weeks basic training we were moved back to RAF Cardington were we joined over 1,000 smart men from training camps all over the country. Once we got settled in, to our amazement, we were issued with yet another uniform, this was the ceremonial dress made especially for the Parade. We were also given new boots and webbing and then, for the next week or so, we spent our 7 hour working day out on a runway just standing still, exactly as we would be doing in London on the big day.
Some days later we packed up once again and moved down to London where our new home was to be a six man tent in a corner of Kensington Gardens. Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens were packed with over 15,000 troops from all over the world, all living under canvas.
On the morning of the event itself we were up nice and early and were ready at 07.30hrs to march to our section of road in Regents Street. We arrived about 08.00hrs and took up our places on both sides. We then stood there for over 8 hours, except for one 15 minute break. All that I can remember is that it was very wet and cold.
The Queens' coach drove past at about 15.00hrs and for the next hour we were then able to ‘enjoy’ the pomp and ceremony of the remainder of the parade as it passed by. I was lucky as I was on the Queens' side of the road, less than two feet from the Coaches and Bands. We eventually marched off about 16.30hrs when we were taken to Hyde Park were the Navy were giving all the troops a tot of Navy Rum. I’m pleased to say that I was not allowed to partake as I was still under 18 years of age.
We were then allowed out for the evening, but as we had not been paid for three weeks and most of us were skint we had an early night. My very first time in London and penniless!
We were then given the next day off, so I went up to town and then down to Buckingham Palace as all the Royal Family were due on the Balcony at 11am. I was obviously in uniform and I managed to get right up to the very front of the gates for a great view. The photo shows the view that I had. I could almost touch the Queen.
The following day saw us all sent home on leave before we joined our trade courses.
That was my Coronation experience; and we never did receive our promised Medals. Worse things happen at sea I suppose!