CHRISTOPHER A LONG - The Coronation Generation

The Coronation Generation in 1953

A glimpse of some rather fortunate little children who were, by chance, unfortunately brought up in a time warp...

By Christopher Long

Every Christmas for several years The Hon. Mrs Robert Evans held a party at Squerryes Lodge, Westerham, Kent, for her children and their friends. Most of our mothers held similar parties throughout the year, usually for our birthdays. More or less the same little crowd turned up each time...

These parties followed a fairly routine pattern. Depending on the weather our nannies, who tended to be very strict kill-joys, organised games indoors or outdoors – sack races, egg-and-spoon races and musical chairs. This was followed by a large tea with sandwiches, cakes and jelly. Finally a conjuror such as Mr Fergus Anckorn of Westerham would appear before our mothers turned up at drinks time to take us home, along with our nannies. While they arrived we would usually skate across the polished floors at great speed on our leather-soled, patent-leather, silver-buckled shoes, doing our utmost to irritate our nannies and hosts.

This picture (above right and below) was taken at Squerryes Lodge at Christmas in 1953. We children all knew each other very well and continued to do so for many years afterwards. Some of us lived in or near Westerham while others had come down from London. And a group of us were also at school together at Laverock PNEU School in nearby Limpsfield, though the main link was that our parents were all friends.

The principal excitement for us children in 1953 had been the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth ll. Several fathers had taken leading parts in the Coronation parade and we had seen them on newly launched BBC television. They were former army or navy officers who had returned from service in WWll only six years earlier. Among these were Maj. Ion Calvocoressi, Capt. Robert Evans, Captain Johnny Leworthy RN, and Capt. Christopher Soames (who was also a member of his father-in-law's Cabinet).

Presiding over the Coronation cermenony had been the prime minister of the day, Sir Winston Churchill, who lived nearby, was familiar to many of us and three of whose grandchildren, Nicolas, Emma and Jeremy appear in this picture.

My uncle, The Rev'd John S. Long, as chaplain to Archbishop Fisher of Canterbury, had stood at the Queen's side in Westminster Abbey, holding the large cross and again we had seen him on television and in the coronation press photographs. Later he was to become Archdeacon of Ely.

Some of the children in this picture had mothers who were Ladies-in-Waiting to the Queen (e.g. the Countess of Cromer) and several had fathers who were members of the House of Lords who, in time-honoured fashion, had clustered around the Queen as she was crowned.

As children, of course, we were largely unimpressed by all the pomp and ceremony of the Coronation. What obsessed many of us were planes, tanks, guns, battle-ships... and steam locomotives. Our parents had all served in the forces during WWll and we were a generation steeped in the tales and atmosphere of the war. We knew a Hurricane from a Spitfire with unerring accuracy and would scream round the garden with arms outstretched in aerial dog-fights. We could tell which Guards regiment was which from the order of their buttons and knew the names of most of the great battleships and cruisers that were then patrolling the British Empire.

Looking at us in this picture, taken when strict rationing was still in force and Britain was still a weary and almost bankrupt nation, it seems bizarre that we were dressed in silks and satins and patent leather shoes with silver buckles. The fact is that we had been born in the reign of King George Vl and that for the first few years after WWll our parents had no idea what sort of world would emerge. Until about 1955 the best they could do was to bring us up as they themselves had been in the 1920s and 1930s. And by the time they recognised the spirit of the new Elizabethan age – and were beginning to adapt to it – we had been sent off to conventional and very conservative schools where we continued to live in the past.

So, here we are... the Coronation generation! For a short while, as little children, we were brought up in a 20 year-old time warp. Then we were educated in just the same way as our parents had been. It was hardly surprising that when we emerged as young adults in the late 1960s we were destined to be fairly well-behaved rebels. We were a generation with visions of a future hugely different from our brief pasts. The future we wanted needed radical changes and we were more than willing to rebel... knowing full well that nanny would be very shocked indeed.

Standing in the back row: Mrs Anthony Winder (just visible in the background), Richard Calvocoressi in the arms of nanny Calvocoressi, Jeremy Soames in the arms of nanny Soames, nanny Cromer, an unknown baby in the arms of a mother (perhaps Mrs Enid Paget or Lady Russell), David Long in the arms of nurse Long (nanny Long being off-duty that day) and an unidentified nanny (extreme right).

Seated on the sofa: John Evans with his sister Camilla on nanny Evans' lap.

Standing: The Hon. Vivian Baring, Mary Sebag-Montefiore, probably the Hon. David Russell, Nicholas Soames, Evelyn Baring (Viscount Errington), James Calvocoressi, Emma Soames, probably the Hon. Charles Russell and an unidentified half-hidden child.

Seated in the foreground: Rosemary Long, an unidentified child who may be Sam Winder, Christopher Long, the Hon. Michael Vaughan (with locomotive), an unidentified child behind him and, far right, probably Belinda Paget.

NB Owing to the passage of time and a fading memory, I may have mis-ascribed Evelyn and Vivian Baring, David Russell, Michael Vaughan and Belinda Paget. It also seems odd that the following do not seem to appear in this picture: Richard Leworthy, Charles Sebag-Montefiore and Tom Winder... perhaps they were ill or somehow missed the group photo.

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