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The King's visit - Saturday 16th

The afternoon after the raid, King George VI was informed of Coventry's incredible ordeal, and decided there and then that he should visit the next day - Saturday. The visit was not publicly announced, but the authorities and Mayor John Moseley (known by all as 'Jack', and who had only been made mayor five days before the blitz) and his family, were pre-warned. The initial reaction was mild panic, that we weren't ready to entertain such a guest in our war-torn city - but after talking on the 'phone with officials at Buckingham Palace, their minds were put at rest that the king was quite prepared - and would even bring sandwiches!

A print of an oil painting by Fred Roe showing King George VI visiting the ruins of Coventry Cathedral on Saturday 16th November 1940.
My own print of an oil painting by Fred Roe, depicting King George VI and Herbert Morrison visiting the ruins of Coventry Cathedral on Saturday 16th November 1940.

Nobody could have predicted what a triumph the visit would be. The cathedral was an obvious place for him to visit, and it took Provost R. T. Howard completely by surprise.

Official group photograph of King George VI in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral on Saturday 16th November 1940.
Official group photograph with King George VI in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral on Saturday 16th November 1940.

The king made a great impression on everyone present, and in Howard's words; "His whole attitude was one of intense sympathy and grief." One of the pinnacles, which had fallen from an outer wall, was later erected on the spot where King George stood, marked with a plaque, and is now known as "The King's Pinnacle".

King George spent several hours touring Coventry that day, including a cold meal in the Council House, and wherever he went, the transformation was astonishing. Nobody expected to see him, and several people took a few seconds to actually recognise and take in exactly whom they had suddenly found themselves face to face with!

A Welshman, who by then lived in Coventry, was the subject of an amazing Royal memory.... the king had seen this man in Wales a few years earlier, working on a house to be presented to young Princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret - and still remembered his face.

Altogether, the effect on the worn out citizens after seeing the king was immeasurable, and George appreciated this fact, feeling that it was his duty to raise morale wherever possible. The people of Coventry once more found the determination to make plans to start rebuilding their lives.... and their city.

But what a task that was going to be. For many, the immediate ambition was simply to have some drinking water, a good meal, a place to sleep - and if possible a cup of tea!

King George VI with the Mayor walking around Coventry on Saturday 16th November 1940.
King George VI with the Mayor and other dignitaries walking around Coventry on Saturday 16th.

Andrew Ross, great nephew of Mayor John Moseley, has kindly sent me his family's recollections of this wonderful day, and you can read them here.


 
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This page last updated on 22nd December 2014