Friday, 20 April 2012

Watching the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

Catterick Military Hospital had its own brand of discipline.  Ward rounds were like any other military inspection so much so you had to lie to attention. The majority of patients had orthopaedic injuries so there was a lively atmosphere in the ward. As a young man of 18 I rather enjoyed all the fuss from the nurses and made the most of it, rather than worry about my curtailed army career.

The nurses and sisters all wore their own version of military uniform, the sisters having bright red short cloaks which bore their officer rank and any medals awarded during their service career. The general routine was no different from a civil hospital but I think the food was better and, to help build up our strength, we regularly received a bottle of stout to drink.

It was while I was here that the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II took place on 2 June 1953. In order to give injured servicemen the opportunity to attend, a number of us were allowed leave to watch the procession. Luckily for me, my name was pulled out of the hat. We were driven by ambulance to the North London Barracks medical centre where we met up with about 30 other injured soldiers. Some of the top brass came to see us before we boarded a special bus to take us to a point on the route near Hyde Park.

The weather was appalling on the day and we waited for hours for the royal procession. My clearest memory, however, was not of the Queen but a trip many of us had to make to the nearby public toilet in the park. This motley crew of walking wounded limped across the sodden grass to do the necessary but, as we returned to the bus, I noticed that clearly displayed on the front was a large placard which read, "EX KOREAN WAR VETERANS". The fact that I had broken my leg during National Service in Scotland, and that the injury was a repeat of an old fracture caused by a bicycle accident when I was 12......well, I kept that to myself.


  1. Hello Trish, I'm not sure how I've stumbled across your blog, but love the idea of reading your dad's memoirs in this form. My dad did his national service at about the same time, and I recognise much of his experiences in the posts I have read so far. ( My dad, also John Michael !!!! died in 2007, and I editted and "finished" his memoirs) Anyway, I look forward to finding out more about John Michael Grinsell. Best wishes, Janice.

  2. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment, Janice. And what a coincidence with the two John Michaels and their National Service past.
    I started typing my Dad's memoirs when he was alive but found it a struggle to keep with it all the time. After he died I decided to start the blog, as I have my own one anyway so am familiar with the style. It's great that I can edit the memoirs into readable chunks, include his photos etc. I've been a bit lax of late so need to crack on with the next period of his life.
    Hope you continue to enjoy the stories.

    1. hello again Trish. I am thoroughly enjoying delving into your past posts to learn about your dad's life. Another father was also in the Royal Engineers during his national service. he was actually born in 1929, so did his stint a few years before your father...but lots of similarities in their experiences. J.

  3. An entertaining read--as much for his voice as for the story. And I love how so often our memories of world events are more about what we were doing than about the event itself, as if the world event is merely a backdrop for the real stories.

    What a wonderful project, Trish! I didn't realise you were doing this. x

    1. Thanks for reading, Michelle. You're right, his story isn't about the Queen at all, it's the memory of the weather, the toilet break and the fact that he probably shouldn't have been there at all.

      It's a wonderful task, to do this in my father's memory. Weeks can go by and I don't write anything and then I pick up the book, turn the page, and am transported into his world.