Soldier John Walmsley, now 95, had the pleasure of working for the most senior infantry regiments in the British Army inside Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953 – the day the monarch was crowned after her accession to the throne the previous year.
Recalling his role on the momentous day, John said the Queen would later refer to them as “my four Grenadiers” and was one of the last people that she passed as a Princess, and the first she walked by as Queen.
John, who now lives in the High Wycombe Home of Royal Star & Garter, a charity which provides care to veterans and their partners living with disability or dementia, said: “The spectacle, on that day and at that time was unbelievable.
“The glitter, the pageantry, the music, it was spine-chilling.”
He remembered how the historic day started with marching the short distance from Wellington Barracks to nearby Westminster Abbey with his battalion.
On the day of the Coronation it was raining, so at the Abbey the battalion formed a guard of honour under a canopy, which had been put up to protect The Queen from the elements.
From there, John and three others detached from the guard of honour and slow-marched up the aisle to the music that was playing inside.
John continued: “We all moved into a recess and we stayed there until Princess Elizabeth arrived.
“When the procession arrived, the courtiers had to close in as the aisle was quite narrow. When she walked past, she was so close to us that we could have touched her.
“We couldn’t see the ceremony because we were standing in this alcove, but we could hear everything, and at least we could sense everything that was going on.
And the music, my God I can’t explain it. It was spectacular, I’ll never forget that.”
As she departed the Abbey, John’s regiment presented arms to Her Majesty. A guard of honour was formed after she left in the royal carriage.
“I feel proud to have been part of that historic day,” John added. “It’s something I’ll never forget.”
John, who joined the Grenadier Guards in 1944, also played a key role in the funeral of King George VI, the Queen’s father, in 1952.