Wednesday 11 March 2009 by Annette Gaykema. 7 comments
Personal Stories, New acquisitions, Collection, Coronation, 1953, Queen Elizabeth II, Spithead


Cover of "Coronation Cruise of HMAS Sydney" (RC07761) Cover of "Coronation Cruise of HMAS Sydney" (RC07761)


After the death of King George VI in February 1952, planning for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth began. Tradition demanded a procession of all the Queen’s troops be present and so plans were put in place to form an Australian contingent. There were 250 official representatives from the armed forces sent to the festivities. These official delegates, along with their New Zealand counterparts formed the Coronation Contingent.

On its way to England, the Coronation Contingent, aboard HMAS Sydney and HMNZ Black Prince, made a few stops including Tobruk. Here they held a memorial service at the cemetery. There were four Australian Victoria Cross winners present in the Contingent and they are seen in the following photo. Left to right, the men are Private F. J. Partridge VC, Private E. Kenna VC, 215003 Sergeant J. D. Hinton VC (New Zealand), Private R. Kelliher VC and Sergeant R. R. Rattey VC. The five are standing behind the grave of Corporal J. H. Edmondson who was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross in 1941.


/technology/P01895.001 The five VC winners at Tobruk Cemetery (P01895.001)


Sergeant Graham, who was chosen for guard duty at the war cemetery that day, has recently made a donation of souvenirs and official documents collected during his time as part of the Coronation Contingent. This allows us to better understand what went on in the five months that the Contingent were away. Within a year of joining up (and at the age of 19), Sergeant Graham was one of four men selected to represent all National Servicemen in the Australian Coronation Contingent. Following a nomination and an interview process, he was chosen to represent the National Service of New South Wales.

When the Contingent arrived in England, on May 5, they had further training. They were trained in how to change the guard at Buckingham Palace, march in the Coronation Procession and what to do as part of the Spithead naval review.

Before the Coronation took place, the Australians took part in the change of the guard at Buckingham Palace. They replaced the Grenadier Regiment – the No 1 Queen Guard. They were relieved the next day by the New Zealand Royal Guard. After this they moved into the Earl’s Court Camp. They were given a booklet informing them of the conditions under which they would be living in the camp which was accommodating nearly 9,000 officers: “You will find your sleeping quarters rather cramped and conditions generally a bit austere. We shall, however, do our best to make the camp as comfortable and as free from irksome restrictions as possible” (RC07769).

The Coronation events were the focus of major celebrations in Britain and throughout the Commonwealth. The Australian Contingent were given the right to wear their khaki uniforms and the slouch hat in the procession after Sergeant Graham says they were repeatedly mistaken for Royal Marines in their blue dress uniform (MSS1848). The Coronation Contingent marched the following route which was just over 17 miles long.


Centrefold of souvenir programme showing route of procession (RC07764) Centrefold of souvenir programme showing route of procession (RC07764)


On the 3rd of June, the day after the Coronation, the Queen, accompanied by Prince Phillip, inspected the Contingent and awarded them with the Coronation medal:


/technology/REL25131.008 A replica of the Coronation Medal


On Monday the 15th of June, before heading back to Australia, HMAS Sydney and HMNZ Black Prince were involved in the Spithead Review, the first post-war review of the fleet. There were 280 warships representing every navy in the world. Each ship had to be dressed and gave 3 cheers as the Queen went past in HMS Surprise.


Cover of "Coronation Review of the Fleet" (RC07760) Cover of "Coronation Review of the Fleet" (RC07760)

In the five months that HMAS Sydney was away, it travelled 30,000 miles. Apart from Tobruk and England, HMAS Sydney also stopped at Ceylon, Aden, Suez Canal, Libya, Malta and Gibraltar before arriving in England. On their way home they went to Halifax, they marched in the Independence Day parade in Baltimore, visited Jamaica, Panama Canal (with 3 feet to spare in the Gatum lock), Hawaii, and Auckland.


Flyleaf of souvenir programme (RC07762) Flyleaf of souvenir programme (RC07762)





Many of the men felt honoured and even lucky to have been on such a voyage and to have seen the birth of the second Elizabethan age.















John Scott Palmer

I was lucky enough to have the late CAPT Noel Park DSO (later COL ) share with me his experiences of riding in the mounted contingent for the coronation. He said they rode Household Cavalry horses and spent a lot of time being drilled by Household Cavalry riding masters before they were allowed out in public! We have a copy of a photo of Noel and his fellow riders in full Light Horse uniform looking very pleased with themselves! Last time we were in London we walked over the area near Kensington Palace (Hyde Park?) where the tents were set up for the contingent.The nearest pub wasa on Bayswater Road and would have got lots of trade. I didn't realise until I read this fascinating post how far they had to march! 17 miles! We have a couple of the Coronation books at home with pictures of the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Noel said the best part of the trip was the voyage out and back. He remembered London being still quite drab and bombed out despite all the decorations. Very interesting!

Annette Gaykema

Hi John, Thanks for your response. It's always interesting to hear another story and it's nice to know that the stories continue on. I can imagine how interesting the trip there and back must have been considering the places they went. Regards, Annette.

Laura Oak

My father (now deceased) was one of the household cavalry at that time and actually at the age of 17 played solo trumpet at the Coronation. I have no photos of him at that time and wondered if you could somehow email me this photo. Regards Laura Oak daughter of John Francis Rye

Garry Wilson

Hi, Can you tell me if the Australian Conthingent wore a different type of Rising Sun hat badge on there slouch hats and also different collar badges Regards Garry


Laura Is that the John Francis Rye who moved to Australia and lived there until his death? He told me that he played the trumpet in the army for 16 years Regards Fran

Larry Hartigan

My late father, Infantryman, Reginald Charles Hartigan had the honour to carry the Australian Flag both in the Coronation and in Baltimore.He told me before he passed away he had been fortunate as a Digger to have the opportunity The Coronation presented... and met Movie Stars and Royalty in those 5 months... He remained in the Australian Infantry until 1976,having joined in 1939.I also have many photos including the Group Contingent photo and the Spithead Certificate.

David Wilson

My late uncle Frederick Alexander Wilson served as part of the Coronation Contingent following service with the RAAF flying out of England in 1944 and with the Third Battalion of the RAR in Korea and Papua New Guinea. I would love to see any photographs or diaries from that memorable journey, all the more poignant for my uncle as he had been born in London and sent to WA as a child migrant in 1932 without his brother (whom he never saw again !)