It was a day of firsts that will stay in the memory of Gedney Drove End pensioner Thomas Edwards for ever.
Edmund Hillary was making the headlines for being the first man, along with his sherpa Tenzing Norgay, to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest.
But as Thomas read those headlines as a 15-year-old boy he was just as excited about his first ever visit to London for the Queen’s Coronation, an event that took place 60 years ago this year.
However, the details of the day remain clear in Thomas’s memory, from the exciting moment he learned he was to be one of two boys chosen from his Army Cadet group to go to the capital for the event, and being kitted out with a new uniform to wear on the day, to the “huge” foreign royal travelling in an open carriage to the ceremony – in the rain.
Thomas (75), who has lived in Onslow Lane for over 40 years, grew up in Wales and describes being nominated to go to the Coronation as, “something out of this world”.
He remembers every detail of the journey to London and the massive marquee at White City Stadium where the different regiments from all over the country were fed and given bunk beds to camp on overnight.
Once dressed in their smart uniforms next morning, Thomas recalls: “We marched to Shepherd’s Bush underground station in the rain but we had ground sheets that we put across our shoulders and that was the kit for many years. I remember wearing one when I went into the RAF.”
The various regiments were lined up in front of Buckingham Palace, Thomas standing on the steps of the Queen Victoria Memorial, and everyone shouted and cheered as they waited for Princess Elizabeth to emerge from the palace.
He says: “Eventually she came out in a carriage and the rest of the royals and there was one particular carriage I remember, the lady inside was huge, she was the Queen of Congo or something like that, and she had no cover.”
Once the procession had passed, the boys sat on their ground sheets and ate their packed lunches, all the time listening to the Coronation service on the tannoy system.
When the Queen returned to the palace, Thomas says: “Everybody was cheering and going absolutely mad. It was fantastic. It’s something I’ll never forget. Then they appeared on the balcony and waved. I am a big admirer of the Queen – she has done this country proud.”