More than 5,000 Armed Forces personnel playing an active role in the Coronation of The King and The Queen Consort travelled by train to London Waterloo on Saturday morning, thanks to a partnership between South Western Railway (SWR) and Network Rail.
Members of the Royal Navy, Army, Royal Air Force and Commonwealth forces were transported by a total of nine trains to London Waterloo station. This was the biggest movement of military personnel by the rail industry since Winston Churchill’s funeral in 1965.
Members of the Royal Navy, Army and Commonwealth forces travelled on a total of seven SWR trains while the Royal Air Force travelled on two privately chartered West Coast Railways trains.
The 5,000 Armed Forces personnel travelled by train to the capital from their bases in the UK.
The trains arrived at Platforms 13 to 19 at London Waterloo between 06:12 and 07.31 on Saturday morning. The soldiers, sailors and aviators departed the station and marched over Westminster Bridge to assemble in designated areas before setting off to join the Coronation procession.
As part of the Coronation celebrations, military personnel are playing an active role leading two processions accompanying Their Majesties to and from Westminster Abbey for the Coronation Service. Later in the day, aircraft from across all three of the Armed Services participate in a flypast of more than 60 aircraft flying over The Mall in Central London.
Upon arrival the Armed Forces were greeted by colleagues from SWR and Network Rail including Claire Mann, South Western Railway’s Managing Director and Mark Killick, Network Rail’s Wessex route director.
The troops also arrived to the sound of a special station PA announcement recorded by Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla, which is being played in stations across the country over the Coronation weekend.
To mark the Coronation celebrations, London Waterloo and other stations have been decorated with commemorative banners and bunting and members of the station teams will be welcoming passengers and giving out a range of complimentary memorabilia including handheld flags, children’s activity books, cakes and pin badges.
London Waterloo is the country’s busiest station situated in the heart of London and this year will celebrate its 175-year anniversary.
Claire Mann, Managing Director of South Western Railway, said, “We are proud to support the Armed Forces in their ceremonial duties for what will be an unforgettable day for the whole country.
“I’m very grateful for the hard work and support of all of my colleagues who have made these special trains possible, and the additional services we are providing to Windsor & Eton Riverside for the Coronation Concert tomorrow.
“On behalf of all colleagues at South Western Railway, I wish everyone a happy Coronation weekend.”
Mark Killick, Network Rail’s Wessex route director added, “We are delighted to have welcomed over 5,000 Armed Forces personnel to London Waterloo this morning in what is the biggest movement of military personnel by the rail industry since 1965.
“The Coronation of The King and The Queen Consort is of huge national significance and we’re very proud of the role we are playing, not only in helping transport the Armed Forces but also the many thousands of customers who are travelling by train to London to take part and celebrate this occasion.
“I would like to thank the many colleagues who are working exceptionally hard to ensure our customers experience smooth and pleasant journeys and I would like to wish customers an enjoyable and memorable Coronation weekend.”
Lt Col Belinda Forsythe, Deputy Chief of Staff, London District, who has overseen the logistical element of the military operation said, “The Coronation is a momentous occasion and it’s with immense pride that UK and Commonwealth Armed Forces are taking in the largest military ceremonial operation of its kind for a generation.
“For the thousands of soldiers, sailors and aviators from the UK and across the Commonwealth to arrive in London together by train before marching off to take part in this historic ceremony was a unique and special moment and my thanks go to all involved in making it happen.”