‘I had to pack a pistol to guard Queen in Portsmouth Naval Base’ – Nostalgia

The Queen walking from Kings Stairs to HMS Victory.  Armed escort constable Lofting is on the left.
The Queen walking from Kings Stairs to HMS Victory. Armed escort constable Lofting is on the left.
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I asked for anecdotes about the 1977 Silver Jubilee Fleet Review and one reply I received was from Leonard Lofting who was an MoD police constable at the time – and armed.

In the photograph above Mr Lofting is on the extreme left and inside the right side of his raincoat was a holstered 9m pistol.

The Hampshireman passing Buriton siding, near Petersfield, on its way to the Meon Valley on February 6, 1955.

The Hampshireman passing Buriton siding, near Petersfield, on its way to the Meon Valley on February 6, 1955.

I asked him if he was on special duties and he says several officers on duty that day were armed but years later, after 11 Royal Marine bandsmen were murdered by the IRA at Deal barracks in 1989, all MoD police officers were armed.

I asked him if he ever had to use his pistol. He says: 'The rule was not to pull it in anger, don’t put it away in shame.’ With that on his mind at all times he never once drew his revolver.

Although from the Baffins area of Portsmouth he was working as a slinger in Portland Dockyard in the early 1960s but wanted something better. He applied for and and was accepted into the MoD police on November 11, 1963. 

He was posted to Portsmouth in April 1971 and was the first armed man on duty in the public domain when he guarded the bridge leading on to HMS Excellent, Whale island.

The itinerary of The Hampshireman special train.

The itinerary of The Hampshireman special train.

The Queen arrived at King’s Stairs at lunchtime on June 28, 1977. It was pouring and she and her party had to walk from the stairs to HMS Victory. Leonard walked some yards to the rear of the party along with an admiral and rear admiral. If anyone can recognise these officers, please let me know. 

Leonard was born in Hampstead but was adopted after his mother died and his father was away in the army.

He was always called ‘Happy’ Hampstead but in later years  changed his name back to Lofting and found many cousins he never knew existed. He retired on January 31, 1996 after 33 years’ service.

• The second picture shows The Hampshireman passing Buriton siding, near Petersfield, on its way to the Meon Valley. 

Dockyard pass card from 1941. Picture: Barry Cox Collection.

Dockyard pass card from 1941. Picture: Barry Cox Collection.

It was taken on February 6, 1955, when a special train organised by the The Railway Correspondence And Travel Society ran from Waterloo. After leaving Fareham it made one final journey, for a passenger train, along the Meon Valley line.

Here we see the double-headed train (two locos) passing the siding which was at the top of the bank after leaving Petersfield and just before entering Buriton tunnel.

• It always amazes me what postcard collector Barry Cox comes up with.

He recently bought this pass to work in the dockyard during the war. As you can see, it belonged to Frederick John Maloney who worked in the engineering department as a joiner. It’s somewhat different to today’s sophisticated identity cards.