1981-Mar-pg09_‘The Great Day’

1981-Mar-pg09_‘The Great Day’

This article came from Chronicle published March 1981. Page: 9


‘The Great Day’

Author: Mrs.I.L.Brice


As this seems to be the year of our present Prince of Wales, it may not be amiss to remember the visit, of the last Prince of Wales to Yeovil in 1923, when he came to open an extension to the Kingston hospital. It was to be a great day for the town, and preparation went on for this special occasion weeks before the actual date, The town was in a ferment of anticipation, and trade was brisk in bunting and other patriotic emblems. I was very excited about the event, as I was a member of the Baptist. Church Girls’ Life Brigade, and we were to be part of the Guard of Honour, Many organizations were to be represented and our Brigade and the Yeovil Girl Guides dad pride of place at the front of the steps leading to the veranda where the Prince would formally open the new wing.

However, when the great day arrived., the weather had the audacity to be cloudy with a slight chilly breeze,. My mother said ‘You had better wear a coat as it’s going to rain’. As usual she was right as when I reached the Memorial Hall where the girls were assembling the weather had deteriorated and a slight drizzle had commenced. Our Captain, small, elderly, and frail-looking, whose energy belied her looks, marched up and down the line of girls with an air of disapproval. ‘Now, Girls,’ she said, ‘take off those coats, you can’t be a Guard of Honour to our splendid Prince in garments of all shapes, sizes, and colours. Off with them and show your smart uniforms.’

Smart was hardly the right description – it consisted of a dark navy-blue thick serge blouse, full ill-fitting skirt, black stockings, and heavy laced-up shoes. The hat was a flat pancake affair and was most unbecoming. This attire had the ability to make the prettiest girl look like a frimp – except, of course, in the eyes of our Captain who was most proud of this little group of girls, as the Brigade was her creation.

The girls formed and marched out, two by two. The rain was heavier now, and they stopped abruptly and looked at their officer. ‘Don’t you think we ought to wear our coats, Miss?’ asked one girl, braver than the rest. The Captain looked at the rain and then at the girls, and pride overcame misgivings. ‘O, it’s not too bad girls, most probably it will ease off later. You may be sure the Guides won’t be wearing theirs’. And that, is where she was wrong. When we reached the hospital grounds and stood in our appointed places – there were the Guides, buttoned up to their chins in coats and mackintoshes. The rain was now streaming down, and although the crowd jammed in tight behind us kept off much of the weather, the drips from an umbrella held by a woman directly behind me, found their way regularly and remorselessly down between my collar and neck.

The Prince was late, and I had begun. to lose any enthusiasm for his arrival when suddenly there was a rustle in the crowd and voices shouted ‘He is coming! He is coming!, and the hoorays grew louder, ‘Stand up smartly’, hissed Captain all along the rank, and between our Guard of Honour hurried a group of men, all swell, protected from the inclement weather. I hardly caught a glimpse of the slight figure of the Prince, and by now was past caring. If the whole Royal Family had miraculously materialized, I doubt if I would have found sufficient spirit to cheer. All I wanted to do was to rush home and change into dry clothes, and to be warm again, and most, of my companions were feeling the same,

The ceremony seemed endless with speeches and prayers, but at last, it was all over. I will not repeat what my mother said when I reached home, about Guards of Honour. However, much to her surprise, I was none the worse for my day on duty.