It was 70 years ago that a young man from North Wales joined the Armed Forces and played his role in the Queen's Coronation.

Here, Bill Britton (22217653 Gdsm - served 1952 to 1955) recalls that time...


Coronation duty for Bill Britton and the Welsh Guards.

Coronation duty for Bill Britton and the Welsh Guards.


The year was 1952, and at the time I was working down Llay Main Pit. If you worked down the mines, you were exempt from going into the forces.

Each weekend I went out to enjoy myself but all my friends were in the forces.

As they came home on leave, they called me a coward, which I got tired of, so made enquiries to join.

I then found out none of them were in the Welsh Guards, and so I joined, and what a turn up for the books!

My dad gave us a life of hell, so it was no surprise to me when I enlisted but the training was still very difficult.

For those of you that have been there and done it, you will know what I am talking about.

Finding out what sports team you could go in was good but when it came to boxing, I was soon on the floor.

I found a liking for all things cross country running. I liked it, a chance to get out for a while.


Coronation duty for Bill Britton and the Welsh Guards.

Coronation duty for Bill Britton and the Welsh Guards.


The highest I achieved was seventh when running for the Welsh Guards. I was fit back then, fitter than a fiddler's elbow.

We were just coming to the end of our training when the flood hit Canvey Island, in the Thames Estuary, so off to Southend Airport we went to fill sandbags (with a rum ration at the end of the day).

On our way back to Pirbright, we were informed that the King had passed away, and we were told to get ready for the Coronation in June.

For weeks we were out on the square rehearsing standing still for a long time, whilst watching the RSM drill the officers!

No one was left out and the rehearsals went on for over a month or more. Our platoon sergeant went on parade with no firing pin in his rifle and was inspected by the RSM who saw it. We were all given hell for a long time over that.

Come the day before the big event, and we were sent to Wellington Barracks. The next morning we were up an hour early, had breakfast and got dressed, then marched down the Mall and took up our positions not far from St James' Palace.

I was facing the park, the crowd behind me complained that they had been waiting there all night and now I was blocking their view!

But it was now just before 7am and we were in place and ready.

At the start of the parade were the five Royal Dukes on horseback. It took two hours for the parade to go by me.

Once the ceremony had started in Westminster Abbey, we were given a rest. I recall I had a KitKat and a cup of tea, then it was back out onto the Mall to street line for the return journey of the Royal procession.

It would be another two hours for the completed procession to pass by again. I remember it rained a little as the Queen of Tonga went past me in an open carriage. Strange what you remember.

We got back to the Wellington Barracks at about 4pm, had some food, got changed and then went out into the crowd and enjoyed the night.