First World War Poetry Digital Archive

Footman for a day in the convoy for King George V and Queen Mary, May 1917

"I then got involved in something I didn't think very much about at the time. I was stationed at Chester - we were doing our training at Sandycroft Barracks adjoining Chester Castle. While on parade one evening we were lined up and Corporal Nelson started numbering us off, 1 to 10. I was number 1. 8 of us were chosen and put in the charge of a Corporal and were marched off to the Quartermaster Stores and given new uniforms. They were very fussy about poshing-us-up, with great attention given as to the fit. We were then taken to a separate small room in the barracks at Sandycroft nearby and sworn to secrecy.

The next day it was up early and we marched to Chester Castle, where 9 Rolls Royces turned up and were lined up with very smart drivers. We were detailed off to each car. I happened to be in No. 1. I was introduced to the chauffeur then we were given our drill: we would be acting as footmen. We were given instructions as to how to open the doors and salute!

We were soon off in convoy to Chester Station where there were two Daimlers waiting. There were just a few people waiting around [but] there was great to-ing and fro-ing of the railway staff and many police and military police. And soon the Royal Train arrived.

Then out came King George V and Queen Mary with two attendants. Then the Duke of Connaught and G.o.C. Western Command. They rode in the two Daimlers, and the two civilians got into mine. We then returned to the Castle but first stopped opposite the Rows where the city dignitaries were all lined up. Then there was a great deal of talk and hand shaking. After all that it was off to Chester Castle with 3 private detectives and red tabs [staff officers] galore and civic dignitaries in the other cars.

We travelled in convoy to Chester Castle and parked in a semicircle where a large number of wounded NCO’s and Tommies were lined up in a half-moon row either seated in bath chairs or on crutches etc. The King and Queen plus all the others got out of the cars, and their Majesties commenced shaking hands and chatting right along the row. Some of the men were without a leg, or an arm, and several were decorated with medals. The King and Queen chatted to most of them.

Then back into the cars again and the convoy moved off to Eaton Hall, the Duke of Westminster’s home. The same drill, but all wounded officers here sat in a half-circle some on crutches, and others with a leg or arm missing, or a head wound - decorations and chat. In fact the King and Queen passed all along the lines, shaking hands and chatting. Many were decorated with a medal - those had a little longer chat! Again into cars and off to Hawarden Hall - the lovely home of Mr Gladstone and more wounded Tommies and a repeat procedure again.

Afterwards we drove to Queens Ferry [Queensferry] to the large TNT factory.The King and Queen and Col. Alencaster went into the head office for a short visit. They were shown around the factory with Col. Ironmonger. Most of the factory workers were women. We were brought a nice assortment of refreshments from the canteen. When their Majesties came out we were lined up by Corporal Nelson and the King inspected the 8 of us - spoke to one or two and had a smile for Corporal Nelson and then back in the cars and straight off to Chester Station. [The King and Queen got] into the Royal Train and off to Liverpool. The chauffeur told me they were going by road to Birkenhead. We saw in the paper the next day that the King had gone to the shipyard to launch a cruiser.

We all returned to Chester Castle and said goodbye to our lovely Rolls Royces and drivers.

A lovely day and one to remember."

To view other similar items in the archive click on the hyper-linked words below.