Day the fleet lit up for the young Queen

Barnstaple pensioner remembers watching hundreds of ships light up as the Queen sailed past that day.

IT was in honour of an admirable sea captain that a Barnstaple man has treasured his certificate from the Queen’s Coronation Review for the past 60 years.

George Dryden, fondly known by his friends as Carl, stood to attention atop the HMS Thermopylae submarine during the sail-by at Spithead on June 15, 1953.

Before the Queen’s vessel appeared, the crew was inspected by Captain Peter Langly-Smith to ensure their uniforms were sparkling.

George, a former stoker mechanic, said: “I remember it was the oddest thing, as we took our hats off and span them clockwise shouting ‘hip hip, hooray’, I saw the Queen touch Prince Phillip on the shoulder and point.

“I don’t know what exactly she was pointing at, but the royals never pointed; it was quite peculiar.”

George said the most impressive moment of that day happened that evening when vessels from around the world remained gathered at Spithead

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“There were hundreds of ships and submarines lined up there, at least 300 to 400 of them. And when the Queen returned to Portsmouth that evening, around 9pm, I don’t know what happened, but it was like she pressed a button and all the ships suddenly lit up. It was quite magnificent.”

George, now 81, stored his certificate from the day away for safe keeping in honour of Captain Langly-Smith, who was reported to have died in 1961.

But after reading a Coronation story in the Gazette, George remembered the Captain who had inspected him on the day and dug out the memorabilia.

“He signed my certificate and was the best sea captain I ever had,” he said.

“I have tried to keep it safe in a drawer, along with a photo some holidaymakers took of me on the submarine.”

George was discharged from the Navy in 1956 and he now lives in Barnstaple with his wife, Margaret.

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