Royal family were treated like... royalty

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When the Queen visits Portsmouth Naval Base these days she usually arrives on a regular service train. She gets off at the Harbour Station, gets into a car and is then whisked off to the dockyard via the former main gate.

But there was a time when, in my opinion, this was done properly.

On May 6, 1939, George VI and Queen Elizabeth arrived in the city before sailing to Canada and the United States.

The royal train arrived at Portsmouth and Southsea’s high-level platform where it was met by the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire (Lord Mottistone) the lord mayor and lady mayoress, the Recorder of Portsmouth, the town clerk and his wife.

Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were expected to stay on the train and travel direct to the Dockyard but, much to the delight of the awaiting crowds, accompanied their parents instead.

The route from the station to the Guildhall was lined with Royal Marines from Eastney Barracks and on arrival in Guildhall Square they were greeted by thousands of onlookers including 2,000 children housed in special stands in front of the Sussex pub.

At the foot of the Guildhall steps a guard of honour from the 1st Battalion, King’s Own Scottish Borderers presented arms and the national anthem was played.

While the King inspected the guard the princesses climbed the Guildhall steps where the Queen was presented with a bouquet.

After the King had rejoined the royal party the keys of the fortress of Portsmouth were presented to him placed on a cushion carried by a Corporal Drummer. The King lifted them and then laid them back on the cushion.

After the ceremony the Royal party was driven to the Dockyard. The route was down Stanhope Road, Edinburgh Road and Queen Street and for the whole length of the trip the roads were crowded with cheering wellwishers, my mother among them.

On approaching the Dockyard’s Main Gate that last section of Queen Street was lined with 1,000 naval ratings.

The King and Queen said their goodbyes to their daughters then boarded the liner Empress of Australia for their voyage. Many of the crowd had made their way to Clarence Pier and the seafront to give a final wave goodbye as the liner passed by.

The King and Queen returned on June 22 to be met again by their daughters who went out to meet them in the Solent.
 after embarking from the Dockyard in the destroyer HMS Kempenfelt.