Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: August 17, 2022
Webpage updated: December 21, 2022




The cover of the Official Souvenir Programme of the events
in the City to celebrate the Queen's Coronation, 1953.

On Tuesday June 2nd 1953 the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II took place at Westminster Abbey, in London.  Here in Plymouth, on Plymouth Hoe, the City held its own celebrations of the important day.

One of the decorations on Plymouth Hoe for the Coronation of Her Majesty Quueen Elizabeth II.

One of the decorations on Plymouth Hoe for the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
  Courtesy Mirrorpix, The Box, Plymouth.

Late for the Coronation

This special day started very early for some American visitors.  Thanks to a strike by French seamen, the 44,356-ton French liner "Ile de France" was running very late.  Captain Franck Garrigue had rushed at full speed from Southampton Docks to New York and succeeded in leaving there just 20 hours later for the return Atlantic crossing with 182 passengers hoping to arrive in London in time to see the Coronation.  For the first part of the crossing the wind was behind the liner and helped it to make up time but as it got nearer to the United Kingdom the direction changed to a headwind and delayed the ship slightly more.  At 3am on the morning of Coronation Day the port officials, dockers and railwaymen were gathered at Millbay Docks to await the liner's arrival in Plymouth Sound.  At 3.30am two British Railways tenders were on their way to Cawsand Bay to meet her.  Unfortunately the wind conditions meant that Captain Carrigue could not get to anchor until 4.45am.  By 6.15am all the formalities had been completed and the passengers were on their way to Millbay Docks, where their heavy luggage awaited them.  At just after 7am the Americans left Millbay Docks by special train for the 224-mile run to London Paddington Station.  The Police had arranged for them to be met by a special fleet of labelled taxis that had permission to get them to their reserved seats in the stands.  Although on one day the liner had average a speed of 23.83 knots, the "Ile de France" failed by three hours to beat the record Atlantic crossing time.

First Babies on Coronation Day

One of the first babies to be born in Plymouth on Coronation Day was to be christened Philip Charles Smith by its parents Mr Robert James Smith and Mrs Rosina Joan Smith, who had been married at the Anglican Church of Saint Jude the Apostle on August 24th 1946.

Two more boys were born later on Coronation Day: Philip Charles Cocker was born to Mr Charles William Cocker and Mrs Dorothy May Cocker (formerly Hill) , of 5 Instow Terrace, Saint Budeaux, who had been married at the Anglican Church of Saint Saviour on February 5th 1944; and Ronnie Peter Cox was born to Mr Peter Dennis Cox and Mrs Joan Priscilla Cox (formerly Cowling), of 14 Mirador Place, Mount Gould, who had been married at the Anglican Church of Saint Jude the Apostle on June 16th 1951.

Heavy Showers

The day dawned with heavy showers of rain but it did not deter the crowds from gathering on Plymouth Hoe for the Coronation Drumhead Parade Service.  At 9am the units taking part in the Coronation Drumhead Parade Service on the Hoe were to assemble in the Royal Citadel.  At 9.30am the ex-Service and pre-Service contingent marched off to the Hoe led by the Band of the Royal Marines, HMS "Drake".  They were followed at 9.36am by the unarmed Services led by the Apprentices Band of HMS "Fisgard"Finally at 9.40am another section of the Royal Marine Band from HMS "Drake" led out the Guards of Honour from HMS "Drake", the Royal Barracks, the 47 Coast Regiment Royal Artillery and Royal Air Force Mount Batten.

Drumhead Service

At 10am a General Salute welcomed Vice-Admiral Sir Philip K Enright KBE CB, the Admiral Superintendent, HM Royal Dockyard, the most senior Royal Naval officer available locally as the Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth Command, Admiral Sir Maurice J Mansergh, was attending the Coronation at Westminster Abbey.  The Drumhead Service then started, conducted by the Anglican Lord Bishop of Plymouth, the Right Reverend Norman Harry Clarke accompanied by his Chaplain, the Reverend W H A Cooper MA, Vicar of Saint Andrew's with Saint Catharine's Parish.  They were assisted by the President of the Plymouth Federal Council of Free Churches, Mr J K Absolom, and the Senior Chaplain of the Royal Naval Barracks, the Reverend H W Brierley MA, representing the three Services.  As the Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Alderman Sir Clifford Tozer, was attending the Coronation at Westminster Abbey, it was the Deputy Lord Mayor, Councillor Leslie F Paul, who at 10.20am read the Proclamation: 'I proclaim the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.  May God bless her and give her good health, and long life to reign over us.  God Save the Queen'.  This was followed at 10.30am by a 21-gun salute by the Royal Citadel, the Eastern King's Battery, the Royal Naval Barracks, and all of Her Majesty's ships in harbour.  The military guards gave a Royal Salute during the National Anthem, when the Royal Standard was broken.

The Parade

Vice-Admiral Sir Philip K Enright KBE CB took the Salute as the Parade moved off towards Elliot Street and Citadel Road to the Royal Citadel.  The ex-Servicemen's section disbanded in Athenaeum Street.  The Parade comprised:

Armed Guard Units, under the Command of Captain F R Main of HMS "Defiance";

Royal Marine Band of HMS "Drake";

Royal Navy;

Royal Marines;

the Army;

Royal Air Force.

Present Day

HMS "Orion", representing the reserve fleet, Devonport;

HMS "Raleigh", Stokers' Training Establishment;

HMS "Alaunia", Stokers' Training Ship;

HMS "Fisgard", Apprentice Training Establishment;

Women's Royal Naval Service;

407 Coast Regiment, Royal Artillery, Territorial Army;

256 Light Anti-Aircraft (LAA) Regiment, Royal Artillery, Territorial Army;

668 Mixed Heavy Anti-Aircraft (HAA) Regiment, Royal Artillery, Territorial Army;

27 Mixed Squadron, Royal Signals;

15 Special Wireless Squadron;

Support Company 4th Devons;

Women's Royal Army Corps contingent from the 668 Mixed Heavy Anti-Aircraft (HAA) Regiment, Royal Artillery;

Number 3513 Fighter Control Unit, Royal Auxiliary Air Force.


Apprentice Band, HMS "Fisgard";

South African War Veterans;

Old Contemptibles' Association;

British Limbless Ex-Service Men's Association; Royal Marine Old Comrades;

Royal Marine Association; Royal Artillery Association; Royal Air Forces Association;

British Legion Number 1 Crownhill and Britannia branches;


Sea Cadet Corps;

Army Cadet Corps;

Air Training Corps;

Royal Naval Barracks Boys' Brigade;

Royal Marine Volunteer Cadet Corps;

Girls' Nautical Training Corps;

Girls' Training Corps;

Women's Junior Air Corps.

Broadcasting the Coronation

The televising of the Coronation Service in Westminster Abbey started at 11.15am and the official Proclamation of Her Majesty as Queen Elizabeth II came at 12.30pm.  Although the residents of Princetown received good television signals from the Wenvoe Transmitting Station at Cardiff, as did those gathered in the Prison Officers' Club, the inmates at Dartmoor Prison did not see the television transmission because no room could be found to house all the prisoners at the same time to watch the programme.  They had their wirelesses on all day, however, and were granted the special privilege of a newspaper between every five men.  They were also served special meals.  Heavy rain caused the postponement of the children's sports until the following Saturday, but 473 children from all over the parish, including, Postbridge, Huccaby, Merrivale and Dartmeet, did attend a tea and receive a souvenir mug.  The unveiling of a plaque by Mrs F B Smith, of Tor Royal, on Princetown's first five swings in the playing-field, was attended by only twelve people.

Within the City, television reception was 'reasonably good' according to the Western Evening Herald, although in some areas pictures were 'sometimes almost indistinguishable' and 'some of the details were at times lost'.  At Eggbuckland Parish Church a television set had been installed and another was place din the local school.  Four sets had been placed in the Foresters' Hall at Plymstock, where reception was better, and were watched by some 250 local residents.

Fainting Ladies

During the celebrations on Plymouth Hoe three young women collapsed and were taken to their homes by ambulance.  They were Miss Thelma Pridham, of 72 Peter's Park Lake, Saint Budeaux; Miss Patricia Seddon, of 68 Peter's Park Lane; and Miss Maureen Abbott, of 42 Chaddlewood Avenue, Lipson.

Canoeing across the Channel

An astounding story not connected with Plymouth was the interception in the English Channel in heavy weather of 24-years-old Gerrard Scholz, a dentist from Vienna, Austria, who was paddling a 15-foot canoe in order to reach London in time for the Coronation.  He was forcibly seized by trawlermen, who said he was up to his waist in the water.


At 3pm the informal celebrations began with a Children's Concert and Talent Competition in the Hoe Marquee led by the City of Plymouth Light Orchestra.  On the Hoe Bowling Green a bowling match in Elizabethan costume was presented by the Plymouth Hoe Ladies' Bowling Club, the City of Plymouth Bowling Club and the Hoe Bowling Club.  The green was soon enclosed by a crowd six and seven-deep in places who watched with enthusiasm as the costumed couples paraded before the match.  Drake, Grenville, Hawkins, Howard and Raleigh were all represented with their ladies and pages.  As in ancient tradition, the game was interrupted by Captain Fleming with the news that the Spanish Armada had been sighted but the game was continued to the end, of course.  The appears to have been no winner.  At the end "The Armada", by Lord Macauley, was by Mr Clifton Earle and the entire cast 'joined lustily in the singing of the National Anthem'. 


In the West Hoe Recreation Ground the Elizabethan costume chess display was presented by the Plymouth Chess Club.  The opponents were the reigning British Chess Champion, Mr R G Wade, of New Zealand, and the reigning British Ladies' Champion, Mrs R M Bruce, of Plymouth.  One team was dressed in scarlet, the other in white, made by local school children.  The "Castles" supported wooden battlements.  The chess pieces were represented by 28 children from various Plymouth schools.  The actual game was played on a real chess board and the children were told where to on a larger version.  After nearly an hour and a half's play, and 67 moves, Mr Wade offered his opponent a draw and the game ended.

The Chess Game in West Hoe Park.

The Coronation Chess Game in West Hoe Park.
  Courtesy of Mirrorpiz, The Box, Plymouth.


The children dressed as chess pieces.

The children dressed as chess pieces.
  Courtesy of Mirrorpix, The Box, Plymouth.

Square Dancing

Back up on the Hoe, between 3.30 and 5pm there was supposed to be Square Dancing with occasional interludes of English and Scottish dancing.  No sooner had Wally Britton and his band struck up the Gay Gordons than the crush of the watching crowd brought the dancers to a halt and was replaced by impromptu community singing.  Although the organisers and the caller, Miss Margaret Marsden, appealed to the crowd to move and give the dancers some space, the Police eventually advised them to call the event off.

Alfreso Dancing

Alfresco Dancing, which was popular on Plymouth Hoe during the War years, was repeated between 7 and 8pm, led by Mr Ted Coleman and his Orchestra.

While the Royal Marine Band from the Royal Naval Barracks played on the top of the Belvedere from 8pm onwards, the Flying Elephants from HMS "Illustrious" entertained the crowd and the men from the Royal Marine Commando Training School entered and left Smeaton's Tower without paying.

Silence for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

At 8.55pm the crowd fell silent for the relayed transmission of the BBC's broadcast by the Prime Minister.  This was followed at 9pm by a broadcast by Her Majesty the Queen.

Judging the Decorated Boats

While all the above was going on, the Deputy Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Mr Leslie F Paul, the Admiral-Superintendent of the Royal Dockyard, Vice-Admiral Sir Philip K Enright KBE CB, and the Air Officer Commending Number 19 Group Coastal Command, Air Vice-Marshall T C Traill CB OBE DFC, judged the decorated boats and awarded the following prizes:  1st prize of 20 - Royal Mail Steamship "Queen Elizabeth" entered by HMS "Defiance"; 2nd prize of 10, a Swan and Cygnets entered by Number 238 Maintenance Unit, RAF Mount Batten; 3rd prize of 5 - The Whale entered by Number 3 Boom Defence Depot.  Consolation prizes were awarded to the Royal Naval Barracks for their Mississippi Steamboat and to HMS "Illustrious" for their Omnibus.  In the Class II competition the first prize of 20 was awarded to HMS "Defiance" for their Coach and Horses.

SEE ALSO Broadcasting in Old Plymouth: BBC Radio; Broadcasting in Old Plymouth: BBC Television.

Street Parties

Following a street collection, Mrs Barthwick (probably Mrs Rosalinda Sarah Barwick (1894-1979) of number 10) and Mrs Kitt (no doubt Mrs Olive Mary Kitt (1887-1982) of number 31) organised a street party for 150 children and adults in Cambridge Street, Plymouth.  It included novelty sports and community singing.  All children under five years of age were given souvenir beakers, older boys were given souvenir medals and the older girls were presented with souvenir handkerchiefs.

Thirty children were entertained to tea and sports in Barne Road, Saint Budeaux.  They were also given souvenirs of the occasion.

Games and races and a fancy dress parade were organised by Mr H Lovering in Shrewsbury Road.   It was followed by a tea and entertainment by a conjuror.

Some street parties were held later in the week.  On June 6th the tenants of Rendle Street Flats and Teats Hill Flats held theirs and 52 children of Fellowe's Place at Millbridge were entertained to tea and a fancy dress parade.

The children of Beatrice Avenue and Chaddlewood Avenue, Mount Gould, were given a party on June 12th in the Scouts' Hal in Diamond Avenue.

The fireworks  Crown on Drake's Island.

Finally the fireworks Crown on Drake's Island.
  Courtesy Mirrorpix, The Box, Plymouth.




I am indebted to Debbie Watson for researching the Coronation Day celebrations on my behalf and to the Image and Film Service at The Box, Plymouth, for permission to reproduce the images.

The author watched the Coronation on a small-screen black and white television in the front room of number 4 Saint Mawe's Terrace, Keyham Barton, with his parents and numerous aunts and uncles.  In the evening he was taken up on the Hoe to watch the fireworks and clearly remembers the illuminated Crown on Drake's Island.