My position was on the Victoria Memorial, immediately opposite Buckingham Palace, and my commentary box was placed so high on the Memorial that I seemed to be on the wing of the bridge of some great liner. The crowd behind the long line of Guards swirled like the sea before me.
All arOund were the cameras. Although they were only transmitting in black and white, we all felt that we were bringing a new dimension to the ceremony. For the first time, the people of Britain were going to see as well as hear, the splendours of a great state occasion. All of us on the Memorial felt a tension in the air.
My mind went back over the years to the other Coronation I had covered, the Coronation of King George VI. I had just joined the BBC and I sat with Tommy Woodroofe in our commentary box at the top of Constitution Hill. lord Reith was then still in charge of the BBC and he insisted that, although we could not be seen, all commentators had to dress in full morning coat and top hat!
"This is, after all, a royal occasion," he said, "and the B13C is expected by the public to behave like royalty!'.
By 1953, times had changed. A World War had intervened. It had become more important for the BBC to behave now like the members of the crowd. And what a wonderful and happy crowd they were!
We had been starved of colour throughout the post-war period. We had survived the 'austerity' of Sir Stafford Cripps. Now Britain was determined to 'let itself go'.
People had camped out for days on the pavements, whole family parties all ready to wave their flags and cheer everything in sight. But it was the return procession from the Abbey that everyone was waiting for.
Three things about it stand out in my memory. First, the dress uniform of the service units. Here were the splendours of military uniforms that we thought we had lost for ever.
Next, the procession of distinguished guests in their carriages; and here it was Queen Salute of Tonga who stole the show. A slight rain had started to fall, but she insisted on keeping her carriage open. Tall, majestic, smiling, she rode straight into the hearts of the Londoners.
But the greatest memory of the royal procession must remain the Queen's Coach. A golden, jewelled casket of a coach! And within, radiant, happy and wearing the Imperial State Crown, sat the Queen with the Duke of Edinburgh at her side. This was exactly as we had hoped to see them both riding through Coronation London.
There was one additional memory which I must not omit — a very human one. There was a moment, as the Household Cavalry and the Foot Guards marched and rode by, when I glanced up at the Palace and I spotted a little boy in one of the upper windows. He was hopping with excitement, and from time to time, he would do his best to give his version of a smart Guard's salute.
It was Prince Charles, who had been brought back early from the Abbey and who was determined not to miss a moment of the great show. I wonder if he, too, remembers the occasion; and if he will pass on that memory to Prince William?
The Coronation Day still had further excitement to offer. Once the Queen had,returned to the Palace, the great crowd rushed to the railings and poured in a flood down the Mall. As the squadrons of the. RAF roared overhead, the Queen and the whole royal party came out on to the balcony. The ceremony in the Abbey had been the formal acknowledgement of Her Majesty as Queen/ this was the popular accolade — the cheering seemed endless.
The crowd seemed never to disperse, and they knew that later on, the Queen was due to return to the balcony and press the button which would give the sign for the lighting up of London.
I had gone across to the ,BBC Control Point in Green Park. Fatal mistake. When I set out to return to my splendid commentary point up on the Albert Memorial, I found that just could not get through the crowd of joyous Coronation revellers. 1 was tossed on the human flood, like a hapless, floating log. I was jammed against the railings and then flung back to my starting point in Green Park.
The engineers came to my rescue. They perched me precariously on an old soap box, handed me a spare microphone, and 1 managed to begin my commentary just in time as the Queen lit up London. Coronation Day for me will always be the day I began with the finest viewpoint in London and ended up on a soap-box!