The Royal Visit to Port Elizabeth in 1947

Royal visit in 1947-Crusader Park#02

In 1947 the British Royal Family embarked upon a world tour. It included an excursion to South Africa, Rhodesia and Basutoland.  Included in this expedition, the duration of which was from 17th February to 23rd April 1947, was a stop-over at Port Elizabeth on the 26th February, five days after Princess Elizabeth’s birthday which was celebrated in Cape Town.

Main picture: Brigadier Arthur Coy with the Mayor of PE, Mr Neave, inspecting the Ex Servicemen with the King and Queen at Crusaders ground, St. George’s Park in February 1947. The princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were in attendance. There was a garden party in Victoria Park afterwards. 

The main event was planned for St George’s Park where the citizens of Port Elizabeth would meet King George VI, his wife Elizabeth and their two daughters, Princesses Elizabeth & Margaret. Being predominantly an English speaking town, the reception accorded to the Royal Family was never going to be frosty. That is not to say that there was not discontentment in certain quarters at their trip to South Africa. Right wing elements within the Afrikaans community especially amongst the 400,000 members of the Ossewa Brandwag­, The Ox Wagon Sentinel, and the National Party, were vociferously opposed to the British.

Royal Train between PE & Alicedale

Royal Train between PE & Alicedale

I have presented two views of this event which so enrapture the public’s imagination. Firstly a more intimate evocation of the event from Kariem Jeftha’s Book about Newtown Port Elizabeth also known as Stuart Township South End.

Prior to the departure from Port Elizabeth

Prior to the departure from Port Elizabeth

A view from a South End resident

Newtowners recall a major event which happened in Port Elizabeth in February 1947.

This was the occasion of the Royal family visit to Port Elizabeth.

Joan in the dress she was wearing at the presentation to the Queen

Joan in the dress she was wearing at the presentation to the Queen

St. Georges Park was chosen as the venue to meet and welcome the Royal family of King George V1, his gracious Queen, Elizabeth and their two daughters, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.

According to correspondents covering the Royal Tour and speaking to the Eastern Province Herald of Thursday,February 27th 1947, Port Elizabeth gave the Royal Family the greatest welcome they had yet received in South Africa.

Joan Assam presenting the bouquet to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth

Joan Assam presenting the bouquet to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth

The Herald reported: ‘The highest pitch was reached at St. Georges Park, where 26,000 people, the majority of whom were school children, were assembled.

Thunderous cheering rolled and surged throughout the half- hour’s duration of the ceremony, in which leading citizens were presented to Their Majesties, a loyal address was handed to the King and the members of the Royal Party signed the City Council’s Golden Book.

Joan Assam,Shirley Warner and Ruwayda Samodien

Joan Assam,Shirley Warner and Ruwayda Samodien

From before six o’clock in the morning people had started to take up positions on vantage points on the ground and around Park Drive, and shortly before 7am children began to enter and take their seats on the spacious stands.

‘For hours men and women, many aged and infirm, slowly drifted into the large arena and were escorted to their seats to the strain of music from the Permanent Force Band.

They were followed by streams of school children and ex-servicemen and women and next–of–kin.

Clipping from the Strait Times

Clipping from the Strait Times

Great volumes of cheering greeted the appearance of the Royal procession round Park Drive, and when the cars drove up to the front of the grandstand, weeks of constrained and pent-up feelings burst forth in a tremendous ovation.

‘To the children it was more than a historical occasion, it was the greatest thrill that had ever pounded their hearts-and probably ever will.

‘Even after the Royal Party had mounted the dais there was unbroken waving of a wall of flags and wildly enthusiastic roars rose, wave on wave.

Apart from the 23,000 children about 3,000 ex-servicemen and women, under the command of Brigadier A Coy, were on parade-European, Coloured, Indian and Native.

Official invitation to the parents of Ruwayda

Official invitation to the parents of Ruwayda

There were also about 600 next-of-kin and 400 invited guests.

’To them in no less a degree, it was a momentous occasion.

‘As the King and Queen and the princesses stood in a row facing the vast crowd, the Permanent Force Band struck up ‘God Save the King’ and followed this with ‘Die Stem van Suid Afrika’. Never before had the anthems been sung in the city with greater fervour.

The King gave the Mayor Mr. J.S. Neave a signed photograph of the Royal Family.

Ruwayda Samodien presenting the bouquet to Princess Margaret

Ruwayda Samodien presenting the bouquet to Princess Margaret

The tumultuous cheering became even more intense when, with delightful informality the King and Queen and Princesses stepped off the dais into the ranks of ex-servicemen and women and next-of-kin.

Presentation of bouquets

Joan Assam was the fortunate schoolgirl of St. Monica’s School who was chosen to present the Queen with a bouquet of flowers.

Joan said there were 7 girls chosen at her school to go on training on how to curtsy and speak to the Royal Family .Only one would be selected.

1947 Royal Visit to South Africa commemorative medallion

1947 Royal Visit to South Africa commemorative medallion

At the end of the training the 7 names were put into a hat and Joan’s name was drawn.

From two other schools, Shirley Warney was chosen to present a bouquet to Princess Elizabeth and Ruwayda Samodien to Princess Margaret.
Joan Assam presenting the bouquet to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.

The King can be seen standing to the left of the queen.

On Joan’s left is Shirley Warney and to the right Her Majesty Princess Elizabeth.

Joan Assam,Shirley Warner and Ruwayda Samodien

Joan Assam,Shirley Warner and Ruwayda Samodien

A more formal report by St George’s Club

There was, however, one particular day when Port Elizabeth was en fete, and that was the occasion of the Royal visit in 1947. It is a matter of pride that the ground was chosen as the meeting place where large numbers of citizens could pay homage to a great King, George VI and his gracious Queen, Elizabeth.

With them were the two young Princesses, Elizabeth, now Queen of England, and Margaret.

According to correspondents covering the Royal Tour and speaking to the Eastern Province Herald of Thursday, February 27, 1947, Port Elizabeth gave the Royal Family the greatest welcome they had yet received in South Africa. The Herald reported:

Port Elizabeth businessman and councillor, Gottlieb William Schafer, is received by Princess Elizabeth at St George's Park during the Royal Family's visit to Port Elizabeth

Port Elizabeth businessman and councillor, Gottlieb William Schafer, is received by Princess Elizabeth at St George’s Park during the Royal Family’s visit to Port Elizabeth

 

“The highest pitch was reached at St George’s Park, where 26,000 people, the majority of whom were school children, were assembled.

“Thunderous cheering rolled and surged throughout the half-hour’s duration of the ceremony, in which leading citizens were presented to Their Majesties, a loyal address was handed to the King and the members of the Royal Party signed the City Council’s Golden Book.

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“From before six o’clock in the morning people had started to take up positions on vantage points on the ground and round Park Drive, and shortly before 7am children began to enter and take their seats on the spacious stands.

Royals in Laingsberg

Royals in Laingsberg

“For hours men and women, many aged and infirm, slowly drifted into the large arena and were escorted to their seats to the strains of music from the Permanent Force Band. They were followed by streams of school children and ex-servicemen and women and next-of-kin.

“Great volumes of cheering greeted the appearance of the Royal procession round Park Drive, and when the cars drove up to the front of the grandstand, weeks of constrained and pent-up feelings burst forth in a tremendous ovation.

Royal Family signs PEs Golden Book. The Queen the PE Caledonian Ladies Pipe Band

Royal Family signs PEs Golden Book. The Queen the PE Caledonian Ladies Pipe Band

“To the children it was more than an historical occasion, it was the greatest thrill that had ever pounded their hearts – and probably ever will.

“Even after the Royal Party had mounted the dais there was unbroken waving of a wall of flags and wildly enthusiastic roars rose, wave on wave.

“Apart from the 23,000 children about 3,000 ex-servicemen and women, under the command of Brigadier A Coy, were on parade – European, Coloured, Indian, Malay, and Native. There were also about 600 next-of-kin and 400 invited guests.

Royal visit in 1947

“As the King and Queen and the princesses stood in a row facing the vast crowd, the Permanent Force Band struck up “God Save the King” and followed this with “Die Stem van Suid Afrika.” Never before had the anthems been sung in the City with greater fervour.

“The presentation of bouquets to the Queen by the Mayoress, Mrs J S Neave, and her two daughters was accompanied by constant cheering and scenes of great enthusiasm.

“The Administrator presented the Mayor and Mayoress of Uitenhage, Mr and Mrs M G Currie, and the Mayor and Mayoress of Walmer, Mr and Mrs C R Payne, and they were followed by City Councillors and the Town Clerk, Mr H Tredwell, and their wives, who were presented by the Mayor, Mr JS Neave.

Royal party at Snake Park in Bird Street

Royal party at Snake Park in Bird Street

“A loyal address of welcome was handed to His Majesty who, in turn, handed his reply to the Mayor, and following this the King and Queen and Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose signed the “Golden Book.”

“The King then gave the Mayor a signed photograph of the Royal Family. The tumultuous cheering became ever more intense when, with delightful informality the King and Queen and Princesses stepped off the dais into the ranks of ex-servicemen and women and next-of-kin.

“Strolling in-between the lines and chatting to many, the Royal Party continued to be besieged by a battery of cameras all the way.

Royal Visit to the PE Snake Park

“The Queen noticed the DFM ribbon on his breast and drew His Majesty’s attention to it. Questioning Churchill, their Majesties learned he had been member of Squadron leader Nettleton’s aircraft in the famous Augsburg raid for which Nettlton was awarded the Victoria Cross while Churchill got the DFM.

“Where was the investiture?” asked the King. “At Buckingham Palace in 1945 Sir; by Your Majesty,” was the reply.

“You have given us a wonderful welcome,” the Queen said to Mr H Hubert and MrJ Wilson. “It is a fine turnout and we are very pleased to see you all,” added Her Majesty.

The front page of the EP Herald on 27th April 1947

“To Nurse Sampson, whose son was killed during the war, Her Majesty said “How sad. You are all so courageous.”

“The King greeted many men and when he saw the silver-winged boot of one ex-RAF member, he said: “I’ve seen that before. What is it?”

“It is an emblem of the late arrivals’ club, Sir,” replied Mr W B Pearce. “And what is that?” asked the King.

The Royal couple in St Georges Park

The Royal couple in St Georges Park

“It’s a Club for those who had to walk back, Sir. I got it for walking 50 miles to Alamein after my plane crashed.”

“The King addressed two able seamen whose Burma medals had attracted his attention.

“How long have you seen service with the Royal Navy?” he asked Mr RJ Hubert and to Mr JE Wilson he said: “I am pleased to see your naval ribbons”.

The Royal Motorcade in Target Kloof

The Royal Motorcade in Target Kloof

“In the meantime the Queen was talking to crippled Mrs HW Mileson, who told Her Majesty that all her sons had returned safely.”I am glad,” said the Queen graciously.

“The King was very interested in a decoration worn by Mrs CD Thwaites. “Isn’t that the Canadian Red Cross?” he asked. “Yes,” replied Mrs Thwaites. “It was awarded to my brother posthumously.”

“Looking at the medals of Mr W Lebrun and Mr TD Newman, the, King said: “You have done good service in the war.”

“The King asked the details of the service rendered by a non-European Staff-Sergeant WJ Jansen of the Cape Corps. One ex-serviceman darted out of his position and said. “May I shake with Your Majesty? The King shook hands with him.

Royal Visit in 1947 to PE-Letter

“The Queen graciously gave two women sprigs from the bouquet she was carrying.

There were only a few of the many Royal gestures by the King and Queen and completely captivated the huge crowd.

“As the Royal family entered their cars roar followed upon roar and there were bursts of great cheering from the various sections of children as they drove twice round the ground. The procession entered Park Drive and turned west to circle the park and with that ended the finest welcome given to the Royal visitors so far in South Africa.”

1947 Royal Visit to South Africa brooch badge

1947 Royal Visit to South Africa brooch badge

The simple dignity of the Royal party won all hearts, and the cheers of the tremendous crowds seated in the stands were entirely spontaneous. It was an epic moment in St George’s Park history and proof that the ground belongs to the people of Port Elizabeth and is always at their service for similar national or civic occasions.

Herald dated 27th February 1947

Herald dated 27th February 1947

 

Related blogs:

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Horse Drawn Trams

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Trinder Square

The Sad Demise of the Boet Erasmus Stadium

Allister Miller: A South African Air Pioneer & his Connection with Port Elizabeth

Interesting Old Buildings in Central Port Elizabeth

The Shameful Torching of Port Elizabeth’s German Club in 1915

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Cora Terrace

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Grand Hotel

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Whaling in Algoa Bay

Port Elizabeth of Yore: White’s Road

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Slipway in Humewood

Port Elizabeth of Yore: King’s Beach

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Russell Road

 

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Sand dunes, Inhabitants and Animals

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Horse Memorial

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Target Kloof

The Parsonage House at Number 7 Castle Hill Port Elizabeth

What happened to the Shark River in Port Elizabeth?

A Sunday Drive to Schoenmakerskop in 1922

The Three Eras of the Historic Port Elizabeth Harbour

The Historical Port Elizabeth Railway Station

The Great Flood in Port Elizabeth on 1st September 1968

The Friendly City – Port Elizabeth – My Home Town

 

Sources: 

Blog on the life & times of Newtown:

http://newtownmemoirs.blogspot.co.za/2013/09/4th-post-royal-family-visit.html

Website of St George’s Park: http://stgeorgespark.nmmu.ac.za/content/social/displayarticle.asp?artid=social_005

 


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