RAF Music Services News

Former RAF Musician Recalls 1953 Coronation

Former Royal Air Force Musician Norman Blow, now a member of the Royal Air Force Music Association, proudly recalls his experience of being a part of The Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. 

RAF Music Services would like to thank Norman for sending us his diary and allowing us to share his story.

The extracts below are Norman's diary. Although the event happened 50 years ago, the event is indelibly printed on his memory.

Coronation Day, 2nd June 1953

Monday 29 January: Was measured for my new ceremonial dress uniform which may mean that I am able to take part in the Coronation Procession.

Friday 6 March: Had marching practice. Heard that we are definitely on the Coronation.

Friday 17 April: Went in coach to “Rego’s” in Tottenham to be fitted for new Coronation uniforms.

Wednesday 22 April: Heard what bands we were in for the Coronation; I’m in the combined Cranwell and Regiment bands which are marching in the procession.

Friday 8 May: Regional bands arrive for the Coronation.

Monday 11 May: Went with the band to Drayton USAF station to practise.

Friday 15 May: West Drayton

Monday 18 May: All got up early for a change to be ready for a route-march with the band at 7.45am. After waiting hours, march changed to this afternoon!

Tuesday 19 May: Played on the parade square most of the day.

Wednesday 20 May: Nothing to do all morning but had an eight-mile route-march in the afternoon.

Coronation rehearsal on the square.

Thursday 21 May: On square all afternoon. Another route-march - this time a ten-mile one.

Wednesday 27 May: Left for march to Northolt at 9am. Marched there in pouring rain, took part in a march-past and then marched back. Had the afternoon off to recover!

Thursday 28 May: Back on the square again today.

Friday 29 May: Had day off so took ceremonial uniform home to show Mum and Dad.

Saturday 30 May: Moved to Olympia. We are the only RAF here. The Army outnumber us 500 to 1. The mattresses we sleep(?) on are stuffed with straw. The food is very good. Went out into town in the evening. Thousands of people in London looking at the Coronation Route and the decorations.

  The Coronation medal Norman received in 1953.

Sunday 31 May: Only two days to go to the Coronation. Everybody is busy “bulling” boots etc. Went home for the morning and afternoon. (I lived in Wandsworth, a 30-minute bus ride away). Went up to town again in the evening. Walked around Whitehall and Westminster. There were so many people that it took 30 minutes to get from Trafalgar Square to Westminster Abbey.

Monday 1 June: Had a short practice in the morning then had the day off. Had to be back at Olympia at 2200 hours.

Tuesday 2 June: Coronation Day.

Started from Olympia at 11.15 am and marched via Kensington, Hyde Park and Constitution Hill to Buckingham Palace. There we had some refreshments and then formed up for the State procession. It then started raining but when we started moving, the sun shone a little. The Army bands played first then we followed with Eagle Squadron as we turned into Parliament Square amidst thousands of cheering people.