On Sunday the 10th July, I was privileged to join Her Majesty the Queen for lunch at Buckingham Palace, given by Her Majesty to celebrate the end of World War II. I was one of 2000 guests, most of whom were Veterans, representing various ex service organizations, mine being the Royal British Legion.
With the advance of years, I, like many of my generation, find walking any distance increasingly difficult and my main concern when I received my invite, was how near I was going to get to the palace with all of the obvious road closures. However, I need not have worried, my son-in-law who together with my daughter drove me up to London, only had to flash the invitation card at the various check points that we encountered and we found ourselves a stones throw from the palace gates. As I got out of the car, I felt like a small child being dropped off at friend’s birthday party, mainly due to my Daughter’s repeated reminders about my passport and invitation etc.
The crowds outside of the palace were vast and I joined a small queue of other guests patiently waiting to have their identities checked. We then proceeded to enter one of the main gates to the left of the palace courtyard crossed this and then approached another entrance to the inner courtyard, One could not help having great sympathy for the two guardsmen standing like statues on either side of the entrance. With the temperature in the region of 85 degrees the heat must have been unbearable in those uniforms.
Mounting a flight of steps we found ourselves within the palace where to my dismay I discovered many guests taking pictures as though there was no tomorrow. I had been of the opinion that taking photographs would be verboten, therefore I had not brought my camera.
Passing through the palace, taking in the decor and wonderful paintings, we then descended steps leading down into the gardens and before us was about the largest marquee that I had ever seen. As we approached the marquee, several waiters in crisp white jackets appeared carrying trays of Bucks Fizz, which proved very welcome. As one would expect, everything was well organized. With the invitation was a table plan and a card giving the table number so that identification was no problem.
Having been informed that we should take our places at 12.10 and it was now only 11.45. we had time to wander and look at the gardens and wildlife. Although the vast lawns were immaculate and weed free, the effect of the dry summer was evident. It was then time to take our places for lunch and I was delighted to discover that my table was near enough to the Royal table to afford an excellent view of the Queen when she appeared.
Needless to say the service was excellent and I had hardly sat down when a very pretty lass in her early twenties poured a glass of champagne, I later learned that all the staff on duty were employed by the Royal Caterers, for whom she worked twice a week, whilst studying at London University.
At my table, there were several ex Merchant Navy men and next to me was a Rear Admiral in full dress uniform who seemed delighted to be sat next to an ex R.A.F type, as he put it. Although most of those present were Veterans, there were notable Members of Parliament and high ranking officers from all three services.
The Queen and Prince Philip arrived promptly at 1.00. As soon as they were seated a swarm of waiters and waitresses descended with the first course, poached salmon with asparagus, salad and new potatoes. followed by gooseberry fool and coffee.
Sir Tasker Watkins V.C. then rose and delivered a very fine speech extolling the virtues of the Queen during the years of her reign which was well received by all present.
The Royal party then left and those remaining drank further cups of coffee and continued conversations with their fellow table companions. When I left at about 3 p.m. the crowd outside the palace had grown even larger and I then discovered that fixed to the railings in front of the palace was a huge television screen, relaying the concert which was taking place at Horse Guards Parade.
I was delighted to find that my son-in-law had managed to park close to the palace and was waiting patiently to whisk me home after a very memorable day which I shall always treasure.
Bunny Mason - Chairman, Air Gunner, 196 Squadron
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