Golden Jubilee supplements and pages of black and white photos from 1952 filled the pages of the press – regional and national – last week, as the nation remembered the death of a king, and the accession of Queen Elizabeth II to the throne.
Working at a newspaper made the fateful day even more memorable. John Morton is a former assistant editor of the Grimsby Telegraph. Here he remembers the day the king died.
An incredible 50 years ago, when I was the most junior of junior reporters, I heard five words, which changed the course of history.
“Gentlemen the King is dead,” announced a grim-faced teleprinter operator to an almost deserted newsroom – it was mid-morning and most reporters were out on assignments.
In his hand he held a newsflash from the Press Association, which had just arrived in the next-door creed room, source of all national and international news in those days.
George VI, who had been suffering from cancer, had died peacefully, but unexpectedly in his sleep at Sandringham. The crown had passed to his daughter, Princess Elizabeth, then only twenty-five years old and 4,000 miles away in Africa at the start of a tour due to last five months.
The news editor’s first task was to inform the Editor Mr. J H Giles, who was guest Chairman at a women’s club meeting in Grimsby.
He was none too pleased at being summoned to the telephone – until he learned why. He immediately ordered a special edition to be prepared and the meeting was cancelled as he dashed back to the office, now a scene of feverish activity.
With television in its infancy, the telephone was red-hot with readers asking if the rumours were true. I told them that it was – after being instructed by my superiors to also mention the special edition due on the streets by lunchtime!
So a new Elizabethan era dawned as a somber queen accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, flew home from Kenya. There to meet her at London Airport and to pay homage were her uncle Duke of Gloucester, the Prime Minister Winston Churchill and other dignitaries.
Her first words as Queen in British soil were, “This is a very tragic homecoming”.
So at the start of her Golden Jubilee year, we salute her majesty, the 62nd sovereign to reign over Britain.
This story first appeared in the Evening Telegraph
Back to the Bygones index
Send us your memories. Write to HoldTheFrontPage, Ground Floor, East Point, Cardinal Square, 10 Nottingham Road, Derby DE1 3QT, or e-mail us now