An item written by Derek George, a member and Secretary of the Lifeboat Service, who was part of the Crew joining in London for the day.
For thousands of Londoners the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee involved a day out in some advantageous viewing spot, a glimpse of the opulence and a part in the excitement and glamour of what turned out to be a rain-soaked day at the end. For many thousands all over the country – and indeed world-wide - it involved a long stint in front of the television with all the home comforts. But for those taking part it was a unique process, spread over a number of days and never to be forgotten. Here’s what it was like for the crew of the volunteer lifeboat.
Copious paperwork followed; the instructions to participants was 38 pages long and the passage plan for the Thames bridges 48 pages together with almost daily updates relating to mooring buoys, position in your squadron, pageant speeds, emergency procedures, road closures and countless other issues.
The boat had to be prepared, arrangements made for fuel on passage, accommodation in London for the passage crew for two nights, a sea passage plan completed, lifejackets, flares, anchors, onboard snacks checked and countless other tasks.
It was a condition of entry that all of the 1000 plus boats were to be scrutineered on arrival at West India Dock (the place all boats were to assemble from Wednesday 30th May) by Port of London and Marine and Coastguard Agency inspectors for seaworthiness and compliance with pre issued instructions to took three and a half hours to complete the passage making their mark with Port of London Authority by passing through the Thames Barrier ‘slightly’ faster than was permissible. The coxswain and navigator were obliged to attend a briefing on Friday evening and then off to their hotel which had been booked in Lambeth, being half way between start and finish of the pageant route. Up bright and early on Saturday and return to West India Dock for a scheduled departure and then 13 miles up river to Barn Elms where our designated mooring buoy was to be found. Our squadron was four columns wide and Caister Lifeboat was placed on the starboard side. Arrangements had been made for the rest of the crew to travel to London by coach early on Sunday morning so it provided an opportunity for family and supporters and readers of this magazine to travel with them to actually experience the ‘I was there’ factor.
Fortunately CVLS were able to buy tickets for theBatterseaParkcelebrations for our guest and families but to overcome road and bridge closures on the day we were advised to drop them off at Victoria Station and train to Battersea; despite the predicted grid locking of the London Thames area the drivers got them there on time.
Crew transfer on the day was time scheduled. The only movement permitted on theThameson the day was river taxis between 06.30 a.m. and 10.30 a.m. ferrying crew to their respective craft. Again ‘for operational reasons’ we asked for and were granted the last taxi time which turned out to be 10.30 a.m. at a place called Dove Pier. The travelling crew met the passage crew early and were security checked. Two thousand five hundred people had to be moved from this pier alone and it is a massive credit to the organisers and operators that our water taxi turn up dead on time.
The Pageant comprised nine squadrons which would span a distance of seven miles which in turn would take 90 minutes to pass any particular view point. Start engines was just after 2.00 p.m. and the monitored speed was 4 knots. The rowers were first to start led by the Queen Victoria’s replica royal barge Gloriana. There were 260 rowing boats from all over the Commonwealth and indeed the world but when they passed us (still at our moorings) they had seven miles to row, but again impressive organisation had provided over 50 tow boats ‘just in case’. The little ships of Dunkirk followed, led by local boat MTB 102 and provided an emotional sight; one even carried an actual survivor a man they had actually rescued from those infamous beaches in late May 1940 (what a story that would have been BBC). The historic and working boat squadron followed ~ us; with nine other lifeboats, all retired, tugs, river barges, steam boats, fire boats and a miscellany of other boats wound their way down river. There were people everywhere; there was not a square foot of flat space that didn’t have somebody standing on it. Broads cruisers, canal barges, river barges, river buses and all sorts of craft followed in their turn. The Royal Family transferred from the Royal Yacht pinnace to ‘The Spirit of Chartwell’, decorated with 20,000 flowers, and journeyed down river as far as Tower Bridge where they moored and observed the pageant sailing passed them; each boat paying their respects in their own way. Finally a 21 gun salute from HMS Belfast, a firework display from the top of Tower Bridge ended the by now wet soggy day, but what a day. Although we had yet another dispensation to leave on the Sunday the sea was too rough to undertake a non-essential night journey home so our return was delayed until Monday but even then sea conditions were poor and the passage took some eight hours, much different to the ‘pleasure cruise’ to London on the previous Friday.
Our Pageant Log
The Bernard Matthews II launched just after 8.30 this morning 01/06/2012 heading for the Thames for the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations with a five man crew. Paul Williams Coxswain, Tommy Williams assistant Coxswain, Richard Miles Engineer, Paul Garrod Chairman and Crewman, and Crewman Andrew Turner Local BBC radio reporter. Click on the links below for video's.
Representing the Independent Lifeboats.
Our Pageant Logo
Almost ready to go
We are ready to board
A dash beneath the QueenElizabeth Bridge
Lets stop off at the O2 Arena
The Queen's Barge all ready for the Pageant
Passing through the Thames Barrier
A very relieved Andrew Turner...yes we got here
Entry to Dockland
Time for Tea