SATURDAY 6 May and the 06.39 Woking to Waterloo train was halted just short of its destination. Another train drew alongside and we were muttering that we hoped to get to our platform first when my eldest drew our attention to its passengers.

Soldiers. Hundreds of them. When we arrived at Waterloo we could not cross the concourse towards the exit. We were held back by marshals and advised to go up to the gallery and across so that we would come down on other side of the human barrier.

The gallery was thronged with photographers and television crews. Those soldiers were disembarking immediately in front and below us, so we stopped to catch this most unusual sight. When were so many British soldiers seen at Waterloo?

A lady from Sky News decided we looked a likely group to interview... three generations up to see the procession. I was there with my two elder daughters and nine-year-old grand-daughter.

From the start, our intention was to soak up the atmosphere. We had no aspirations to getting a good view, as for that we would have had to get to London at least 24 hours previously and be prepared to camp overnight. 

We were not prepared to do that, although for the late queen’s coronation in 1953 my father and I had done – but without a tent.  We would have liked to watch the procession from that place close to Hyde Park Corner and near the Wellington Arch Quadriga, where I had stood 70 years ago with my father. But the 2023 processional route was considerably shorter than that of 1953.

Our route was ordered for us, with side roads closed and signs directing us to the place to view the procession. We were firmly directed over Waterloo Bridge and the north side of Trafalgar Square into Pall Mall, and we eventually found ourselves on the north side of The Mall, just down from St James’s Palace. 

There is a narrow strip of meadow between The Mall and a high wall, and we settled ourselves there to consider what to do next. The ground was, of course, rather damp and a gentleman enquired as to whether I could do with a chair.

A tent had been abandoned and he had found a chair for his wife. Would I like the other one? It was a game changer – it had the Cross of St George on it and England writ large across the back.

The carrier for the chair was included and it stayed with us for the rest of the day. Indeed, I used it at our street party the following day.

There were many people between us and The Mall but we could see the heads of the soldiers if they were mounted on horses and sufficiently tall. 

Katherine fashioned her own version of a selfie stick, fastening her phone to a stout branch – there were plenty around for we were under trees – using elastic bands that had been dropped by a postman and litter-picked by her on our way to Woking station. She got some amazingly good shots of the procession, including the coach.

In 1953, I remember a sea of cardboard periscopes that provided views over the heads of people in front.

Guardsmen crossing the concourse at Waterloo Station. (Picture supplied)

After the procession had passed, there was a movement of the crowd and we decided this was the time to find some refreshment. But side roads were closed to us, thus the only places serving drinks were already crowded, even the damp pavement seating. 

Eventually, we found a café on a corner in Curzon Street, where the canopy had kept most of the rain off the seats, and gratefully settled down to a hot chocolate. 

Moments later, there was a great noise and along came a group declaring Not My King very noisily. A line of police appeared from nowhere in front of us and the scene changed rapidly. 

We could no longer go back the way we had come, and could not go forward until the protestors had moved on. This they did, but reappeared as loudly as before with a different set of police drawn up to maintain order.

We did hear one lady protesting about the protestors, but she was gently advised by a policeman it might be tactful to consider keeping her thoughts to herself at this rather crucial moment.

Eventually, we were able to move on but found we could only go towards Hyde Park Corner, where there was a giant screen showing the procession and the service in Westminster Abbey. 

Alas, by the time we had located it, we decided we should move on if we were to get back to The Mall and at least see Buckingham Palace in the distance. 

But Hyde Park had become unfamiliar, with exits we had hoped to use by now either closed, or open in only one direction. So it was we found ourselves nearer to Marble Arch than Buckingham Palace. 

We trudged down Park Lane and into Piccadilly at just the right moment. The flypast duly flew past and we were in an excellent place to watch it. We continued along the only route possible, back down St James’s Street, Pall Mall, Trafalgar Square – south side this time – and over Waterloo Bridge. 

We caught the 4pm train to Woking and didn’t realise quite how damp we had become until we left the train and found our trousers sticking to our legs. So we took much-needed refreshment from the Marciano lounge on the corner of Church Path before walking, slowly, back home.

According to Caroline’s step counter we had walked 13.2 miles. I asked young Eva if she was pleased she’d come with us, despite the long walk, the rain, the hanging about – and she said she was.

I think in future years, when the discomfort has been long forgotten, she will genuinely feel glad she was there.

I am most certainly pleased that I went and soaked up the atmosphere – despite also soaking up the rain. What a great day: God save the King!