Incidentally, this is the only 'pub' I have
ever been in where 'Time, gentlemen, please' appeared to
be a time-honoured custom not to be taken too seriously.
Eventually we returned across the road to bed, about 11.30.
We breakfasted next morning at 8.30 and
then followed a Parade when we were given the once-over
to see that everyone was correctly dressed and then we drew
lots for tickets for the show at the Albert Hall; there
being only about sixty tickets available amongst approximately
100 of the 24th Company. Luck was with the 32nd S.S. and
we all drew tickets. After the Parade was dismissed for
an early lunch at 11.30, many tickets changed hands at prices
ranging from five to thirty shillings each (25p
to £1.50). It was rather regrettable that
all could not have been accommodated.
By 2 p.m. we were back in London and as
our transport carried us round the outer circle of Hyde
Park we could see that large crowds of people were already
assembling at Hyde Park Corner, with numerous mounted police
looking very fine on their most beautifully groomed horses,
and columns of less fortunate Home Guards who were marching
to their positions. As we passed Stanhope Gate (the saluting
base), workmen were still busy with the pale blue draping
which formed the canopy over the platform making one wag
in our midst yell : "Hey, chum, our do's to-day, not
tomorrow, so get cracking."
Eventually we were in our appointed positions,
nearly at the end of the long columns, 7,000 strong, standing
six abreast and waiting for the great moment. Soon the columns
ahead began to move and, after one or two false starts and
stops, we got into marching step. As we came closer to the
base a Grenadier N.C.O. gave us the correct step (we were
all wrong) and almost immediately we could see the Saluting
Base way off on our left. Then, with buttons, boots and
faces shining as they had probably never shone before, we,
as the representatives of all the Home Guards in the country
marched more proudly than we had ever marched before, past
the King and Queen and the two Princesses, to the rousing
strains of Colonel Bogey played by the band of the Irish
Guards. There were few among us, if any, whose hearts did
not beat a little faster at this great moment.
We marched away to Hyde Park Corner and
down Piccadilly, along Regent Street and back along Oxford
Street to Marble Arch, between crowds of onlookers so numerous
that we wondered from whence they could all come. On the
whole, the crowds were quiet, except for occasional outbursts
of clapping. No doubt they were conscious, as we were, that
this was no victory parade, the War was not yet won and
much blood, sweat and tears were likely to flow before full-throated
cheers were the order of the day.
It was a stirring experience, marching through
these London streets, and my only regret was that my friends
of the 32nd S.S. were not there to share the thrill.