Chris Cully, the Managing Director of risk & security management company, Dilitas writes exclusively for Infologue.com about the Golden Jubilee. As the strains of God Save The Queen, Rule Britannia & Land of Hope & Glory drift away, the following e-mail was received from Malcolm Knight, Director of Thames Alive (www.thamesalive.org.uk), he being the organiser of the Manpowered Section of the Thames Pageant:
CONGRATULATIONS to you all!
You stole the show. The Manpowered Squadron led the way and showed the rest how to do it. All your efforts to get there were worth it to be a part of the ‘Canaletto moment’.
The Thames Alive team would like to thank you all for coming to London, bringing your boats from all over the world to the River Thames and for bringing the river back to life for the best possible reason ~ to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
It was a truly life memorable day ~ you can hold your heads high, fly your Pageant flag high and say “I was there!”
Yes, I was there! So rather than the usual tongue in cheek article, I thought I would share some of the experience of that unique 48 hours and how it has prepared us for the Olympics.
The Pageant was a phenomenal piece of organisation bringing over a thousand boats to the Thames, which had crews camped up down the river with their boats of every size and shape beached or moored waiting for the off. The sunshine of Saturday set the tone and our crew spent a convivial afternoon and evening in a pub in Barnes with what appeared to be most of the other crews camped in Dukes Meadows across the river.
Beer flowed and songs from across the UK were sung loud and proud. At one point, seven of us were singing a Maori war song, which was not bad considering we had been singing in Welsh and Cornish five minutes before. Eventually we strode from the pub into lashing rain, which was to stay with us for the next 24 hours.
Sunday morning arrived with steady drizzle and low cloud as crews emerged from tents, standing tall and determined against the elements and undamaged by the partying of the night before. Bacon and egg banjos, tea and coffee were all consumed in equal measure by Pirates, men of Nelson’s navy, Welsh sheep and daffodils, men of the Royal Navy and Marines, ladies dressed in Cancer conquering pink, Maoris and more as the tableau grew.
Crews gathered around their decorated and bunting be-decked craft, making last adjustments as they prepared to get boats to Thames. Here the BBC lost a massive opportunity for live TV, with the start of the Pageant at 07:30.
Still the wind puffed and drizzle fell as more men and women appeared and prepared for the launch. “Same weather as on D-Day” said a pirate sniffing the wind. “See you at the other end” he laughed. Steadily, crews and boats began to move as everyone cheered each other on.
For us, a 30-minute walk up river to the Chiswick boat house where our trusty Cornish Pilots Gig awaited our arrival. A bit of a slog, but watching the Special Escort Group deliver the New Zealand Prime Minister to the wrong boathouse and then have to gallop down the road to the right boathouse, was worth the walk.
The boathouse was another mass of people, crews and boats. The Honourable Artillery Company with their own Guardsman drummed and bugled all the way; a Viking ship from Isle of Man; Captain Hornblower and crew; and the Maoris with a huge war canoe. Much singing in Maori, blessing the Queen, the Brits, the River and the weather. Outstanding! Their boat was then launched by about 40 people who were needed to lift it.
One by one, each boat was scrutineered to verify river worthiness and to check the crew were all badged to show they had cleared security. One last visit to the loo to empty bladder and then, to the strains of our Beach Master yelling “Get off my beach! Get afloat! Good Luck to you all”, we shoved off.
Finally afloat, we gently rowed down river. By the time we reached our beaching point below Hammersmith Bridge, we had rowed about 4 miles. We were confronted by an ocean of rowing boats, long boats, power boats, people as far as you could see on footpaths, in buildings and on the bridge, cheering and waving flags. We stood dumfounded. Yet again the BBC missed all this.
Malcolm Knight on his small powerboat moved slowly through this flotilla and in measured, organised form called us to oars and the man powered Squadron moved onto the water and under Hammersmith Bridge.
From there, we rowed though an avenue of beautiful old craft, all of whom proudly showed their Dunkirk brass badge, their crews cheering and applauding as the Little Ships’ horns hooted the manpowered squadron on. In turn, we waved and saluted and many of us experienced unmanly moments and requested permission for bottom lip to wobble. Permission was granted.
The manpowered Squadrons rowed on as the crowds grew, as did the cheering, yelling, air horns and singing. We rowed on and suddenly found ourselves at the Spirit of Chartwell. Her Majesty beaming down and all the Royals thoroughly enjoying the spectacle.
The Garrison Sergeant Major bellowed the command for the Royal Salute and, despite previous practice; the manpowered squadrons “Tossed Oars”, gave three cheers for Her Majesty and the crowd went wild.
Oars lowered and on we rowed. A steady 4 knots which occasionally reduced as we rowed into various bottlenecks. Eventually, we all reached Tower Bridge and the end of the Pageant. Horns blaring, thousands of people yelling, cheering and singing as we all looked up from the river to euphoria erupting around us.
The next two miles to our dispersal point was accompanied by torrential rain and wind, which sorely tested the sense of humour and ever deadening bum and muscles. But still people stood in the rain and cheered and clapped and waved flags.
The final analysis? A fantastic day forever fixed in history. A perfect example of how well Brits organise and deliver. No security issues or dramas. A handful of people arrested; not bad considering there was well over 1,000,000 + in attendance; nobody dead or lost in the proceedings and the Harbour Master ready to eat his hat, as promised, given the man-powered squadrons delivered as he stated they could not.
Bring on the Olympics!