Solent covered in ships for unforgettable event

The Queen on board the royal yacht Surprise at the coronation fleet review at Spithead in the Solent in 1953
The Queen on board the royal yacht Surprise at the coronation fleet review at Spithead in the Solent in 1953
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The coronation fleet review at Spithead on June 15, 1953, was an unforgettable event for all who saw it.

The Solent was virtually covered with more than 300 ships from navies around the world.

The royal yacht Surprise passing the Swedish cruiser Gota Lejon at the 1953 Spithead coronation fleet review

The royal yacht Surprise passing the Swedish cruiser Gota Lejon at the 1953 Spithead coronation fleet review

These two pictures come from that day and show the Queen on board the royal yacht and the same ship passing a Swedish cruiser.

But it was not the traditional royal yacht.

For the ship used by the royal party that day was HMS Surprise, a frigate pressed into fleet review duty especially for the day because the Royal Yacht Britannia was still being built.

All members of the ship’s company were awarded the Coronation Medal. The Royal Crest, fitted in front of the bridge, was retained as a permanent feature to commemorate her service.

Colin King got in touch because he served in Surprise. He joined the navy on June 5, 1961, and trained at HMS Ganges and HMS Mercury before joining HMS Surprise.

He served in Surprise in the Mediterranean between January 29, 1963, and October the same year as a Junior Radio Operator. It was his first seagoing ship.

Colin says: ‘During my time on board we visited many places around the Mediterranean.’

Surprise, a Bay-class frigate was laid down as HMS Loch Carron but was renamed HMS Gerrans Bay in 1944 before being launched in 1945.

She was renamed HMS Surprise and used as a despatch vessel for the C-in-C Mediterranean later that year.

She was broken up in 1965.

For the Spithead review the B gun mounting was removed and a dais built in its place for the royal viewing platform.

After the review she returned to Malta before coming to home waters in late 1964 to be paid off in January 1965.

Colin retired from the navy in December 1995 as a Chief Communications Yeoman after more than 34 years’ service.

He is still working, at the age of 66, for Southern Railway as a competence development manager.