The Queen's Diamond Jubilee

The AA salutes the Queen and recounts its involvement at the Coronation

28 May 2012

As the Queen celebrates her Diamond Jubilee, the AA looks back at its involvement at her Coronation on 2 June 1953

As the Queen celebrates her Diamond Jubilee, the AA looks back at its involvement at her Coronation on 2 June 1953

As the Queen celebrates her Diamond Jubilee, the AA looks back at its involvement at her Coronation on 2 June 1953.

The Coronation had been 18 months in the planning and while the police were engaged with security arrangements, the AA – whose then president was Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh – was asked to manage the road signing, parking and traffic control.

It was a huge logistical undertaking and, in total, the AA produced and put up 490 road signs. In addition, 50 patrols and five supervisors were selected for traffic management and parking duties, particularly the 4,000 cars for invited guests at Westminster Abbey. AA parking permits were issued and the AA’s route service produced special Coronation route maps.

Five AA mobile traffic information units were stationed around London

Mobile traffic information unit

Mobile traffic information units

To help manage congestion, five AA mobile traffic information units were stationed around London a week before the Coronation to provide information to members intending to travel. AA members unfamiliar with London could even hire (for three shillings an hour) an AA ‘pilot’ who would either navigate or drive them to their destination.

Flags and rosettes

The very heavy London traffic caused other problems too with many cars overheating, so extra patrols were deployed to assist. All AA patrols and vehicles were decorated for the occasion either with rosettes (expressly instructed to be worn on the left lapel) and flags for the vans. Safety guidance was issued at the time for patrols and members to ensure that flags did not cause an obstruction to the driver’s view.

The AA managed parking for the Queen's Coronation

The AA managed the parking

A funny thing in those days was that if you were wearing a uniform, no one would stand by you, so I had a lovely view of the procession!

Denis Davis, AA patrol (retired)

Bitterly cold

AA retiree Denis Davis, 90, who was involved in managing traffic at the Coronation, recalls: “A great number of patrols were brought in from all over the country to control the traffic. We were set up in several places and I was outside St Paul’s. It was a bitterly cold day, so we had been given the order to don greatcoats, but I remember Queen Salote of Tonga going past in an open-top carriage even though she wasn’t used to the cold. Most notables had closed their carriage but she was quite happy and waving to everyone.

“Of course we had quite a lot of instructions, like we had to buff up the motorcycle and sidecar.  Afterwards we were all allowed to go to the Lyons Corner House for refreshments, which was very necessary! A funny thing in those days was that if you were wearing a uniform, no one would stand by you, so I had a lovely view of the procession!”

Everyone at the Automobile Association sends their best wishes to the Queen and Prince Philip in this special Diamond Jubilee year

Edmund King, AA president

Proud association

Edmund King, today’s AA president, says: “The Automobile Association, established in 1905, has always been proud of its close association with the Queen and Royal Household. Both Prince Philip and Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, have been AA presidents; Princess Anne was the one millionth AA member; the Queen opened the AA’s Basingstoke head office; and the AA-owned BSM even taught the Queen to drive.

“Almost 60 years since our patrols helped at the Coronation, we are delighted to be involved in the preparations for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

“Everyone at the Automobile Association sends their best wishes to the Queen and Prince Philip in this special Diamond Jubilee year.”

2012 Jubilee Pageant

This year, the AA is involved in road signage and traffic management for the ‘Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant’ using more than 900 road signs and 5,000 cones; and AA Signs is also assisting various Jubilee-related events across the country

The AA in 1952

  • Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh was president of the AA from 1951 to 1961
  • AA membership was 1.25 million (now around 15 million)
  • 2,000 patrols (now around 3,000)
  • Most patrols were ex-regular or national service soldiers
  • Patrols wore khaki, military-style uniform and the association was organised along military lines
  • Mainstay of the AA patrol fleet was 600cc BSA motorcycle-sidecar combinations fitted with two-way radio from 1952
  • Standard patrol equipment included toolkit, jack, pump, fire extinguisher, first-aid kit and maps
  • Three main classes of AA membership
    • private car (2 guineas a year and 10s badge fee)
    • private three-wheeled car or motorcycle (1.5 guineas a year and 5s badge fee)
    • industrial vehicle (2 guineas a year and 10s badge fee for each vehicle)
    • a guinea is £1 and 5 pence; 10 shillings is 50p
  • AA members received a chrome domed, winged car badge with a yellow background
  • AA members received a key to access the nationwide network of more than 1,000 24-hour AA telephone boxes (key also opened RAC boxes)
  • If a member couldn’t access a phone box, they were required to ask a passing motorist – in each direction – to inform the nearest patrol

(28 May 2012)