St George's Park History
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
St George's Park - The 1947 Royal Visit
The 1947 Royal Visit
There was, however, one particular day when Port Elizabeth was en fete, and that was the occasion of the Royal visit in 1947. It is a matter of pride that the ground was chosen as the meeting place where large numbers of citizens could pay homage to a great King, George VI and his gracious Queen, Elizabeth.
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The Royal Visit - 1947
With them were the two young Princesses, Elizabeth, now Queen of England, and Margaret.
According to correspondents covering the Royal Tour and speaking to the Eastern Province Herald of Thursday, February 27, 1947, Port Elizabeth gave the Royal Family the greatest welcome they had yet received in South Africa. The Herald reported:
"The highest pitch was reached at St George's Park, where 26,000 people, the majority of whom were school children, were assembled.
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Port Elizabeth businessman and councillor, Gottlieb William Schafer, is received by Princess Elizabeth at St George's Park during the Royal Family's visit to Port Elizabeth in 1947.
"Thunderous cheering rolled and surged throughout the half-hour's duration of the ceremony, in which leading citizens were presented to Their Majesties, a loyal address was handed to the King and the members of the Royal Party signed the City Council's Golden Book.
"From before six o'clock in the morning people had started to take up positions on vantage points on the ground and round Park Drive, and shortly before 7am children began to enter and take their seats on the spacious stands.
"For hours men and women, many aged and infirm, slowly drifted into the large arena and were escorted to their seats to the strains of music from the Permanent Force Band. They were followed by streams of school children and ex-servicemen and women and next-of-kin.
"Great volumes of cheering greeted the appearance of the Royal procession round Park Drive, and when the cars drove up to the front of the grandstand, weeks of constrained and pent-up feelings burst forth in a tremendous ovation.
"To the children it was more than an historical occasion, it was the greatest thrill that had ever pounded their hearts - and probably ever will.
"Even after the Royal Party had mounted the dais there was unbroken waving of a wall of flags and wildly enthusiastic roars rose, wave on wave.
"Apart from the 23,000 children about 3,000 ex-servicemen and women, under the command of Brigadier A Coy, were on parade - European, Coloured, Indian, Malay, and Native. There were also about 600 next-of-kin and 400 invited guests.
"To them in no less a degree, was it a momentous occasion.
"As the King and Queen and the princesses stood in a row facing the vast crowd, the Permanent Force Band struck up "God Save the King" and followed this with "Die Stem van Suid Afrika." Never before had the anthems been sung in the City with greater fervour.
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- February 27, 1947
"The presentation of bouquets to the Queen by the Mayoress, Mrs J S Neave, and her two daughters was accompanied by constant cheering and scenes of great enthusiasm.
"The Administrator presented the Mayor and Mayoress of Uitenhage, Mr and Mrs M G Currie, and the Mayor and Mayoress of Walmer, Mr and Mrs C R Payne, and they were followed by City Councillors and the Town Clerk, Mr H Tredwell, and their wives, who were presented by the Mayor, Mr JS Neave.
"A loyal address of welcome was handed to His Majesty who, in turn, handed his reply to the Mayor, and following this the King and Queen and Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose signed the "Golden Book."
"The King then gave the Mayor a signed photograph of the Royal Family. The tumultuous cheering became ever more intense when, with delightful informality the King and Queen and Princesses stepped off the dais into the ranks of ex-servicemen and women and next-of-kin.
"Strolling in-between the lines and chatting to many, the Royal Party continued to be besieged by a battery of cameras all the way.
"The Queen noticed the DFM ribbon on his breast and drew His Majesty's attention to it. Questioning Churchill, their Majesties learned he had been member of Squadron leader Nettleton's aircraft in the famous Augsburg raid for which Nettlton was awarded the Victoria Cross while Churchill got the DFM.
"Where was the investiture?" asked the King. "At Buckingham Palace in 1945 Sir; by Your Majesty," was the reply.
"You have given us a wonderful welcome," the Queen said to Mr H Hubert and MrJ Wilson. "It is a fine turnout and we are very pleased to see you all," added Her Majesty.
"To Nurse Sampson, whose son was killed during the war, Her Majesty said "How sad. You are all so courageous."
"The King greeted many men and when he saw the silver-winged boot of one ex-RAF member, he said: "I've seen that before. What is it?"
"It is an emblem of the late arrivals' club, Sir," replied Mr W B Pearce. "And what is that?" asked the King.
"It's a Club for those who had to walk back, Sir. I got it for walking 50 miles to Alamein after my plane crashed."
"The King addressed two able seamen whose Burma medals had attracted his attention.
"How long have you seen service with the Royal Navy?" he asked Mr RJ Hubert and to Mr JE Wilson he said: "I am pleased to see your naval ribbons".
"In the meantime the Queen was talking to crippled Mrs HW Mileson, who told Her Majesty that all her sons had returned safely. "I am glad," said the Queen graciously.
"The King was very interested in a decoration worn by Mrs CD Thwaites. "Isn't that the Canadian Red Cross?" he asked. "Yes," replied Mrs Thwaites. "It was awarded to my brother posthumously."
"Looking at the medals of Mr W Lebrun and Mr TD Newman, the, King said: "You have done good service in the war."
"The King asked the details of the service rendered by a non-European Staff-Sergt. WJ Jansen of the Cape Corps. One ex-serviceman darted out of his position and said. "May I shake with Your Majesty? The King shook hands with him.
"The Queen graciously gave two women sprigs from the bouquet she was carrying.
There were only a few of the many Royal gestures by the King and Queen and completely captivated the huge crowd.
"As the Royal family entered their cars roar followed upon roar and there were bursts of great cheering from the various sections of children as they drove twice round the ground. The procession entered Park Drive and turned west to circle the park and with that ended the finest welcome given to the Royal visitors so far in South Africa."
The simple dignity of the Royal party won all hearts, and the cheers of the tremendous crowds seated in the stands were entirely spontaneous. It was an epic moment in St George's Park history and proof that the ground belongs to the people of Port Elizabeth and is always at their service for similar national or civic occasions.