By ROD AMNER
The royal family toured South Africa from 17 February to 24 April 1947, including stopovers in Alicedale and Grahamstown.
According to Graham Viney’s book The Last Hurrah: SA and the Last Royal Tour of 1947, they travelled 7 000 km, visited more than 400 cities, towns and stopovers, and spoke to 25 000 people.
Field Marshall Jan Smuts met them aboard the HMS Vanguard battleship, and King George VI descended the gangplank to a 21-gun salute on Signal Hill. Queen Elizabeth, Princess Elizabeth, 20, and Princess Margaret, 16, followed, and they were taken directly to the 14-car White Train (the ‘Palace on Wheels’), their home for two months. Eight of the cars were specially made in England for the tour.
The visit to Alicedale
The train travelled to Alicedale station. In 2014, Alicedale resident John Bateson wrote to Queen, reminding her of her visit and enclosing a photograph.
10 May 2014 John Bateson
Her Majesty The Queen
London SW1A – 1AA
The Royal Tour of South Africa in 1947
As one of your many loyal subjects, born in the UK but now resident in South Africa, I wish to offer you my most sincere admiration and congratulations on your long reign and add my heartfelt wishes for your continued health and happiness.
As you will see from the above address Ma’am, we live in Alicedale, a small village in the beautiful Eastern Cape region of South Africa. Whilst researching our local history, to my surprise, I discovered various references and photographs gathered during the Royal Tour of South Africa in 1947.
Several photographs show the Royal Train standing at the nearby Alicedale railway station (whilst the Royal Party were taken by road to visit Grahamstown) and include one of you, Ma’am, and Princess Margaret, on the footplate of the locomotive where you are operating the steam whistle.
The gravel road, along which the Royal Party travelled to Grahamstown, is known by locals to this day as ‘The King’s Road’.
Though I doubt your Majesty will remember that brief visit to Alicedale during the Royal Tour, the library of photos is a vivid reminder to me of the enduring history of The Royal Family and The Monarchy.
PS. I enclose a rather poor quality print of ‘the footplate’ photo.
A Lady-in-Waiting in the Queen’s office acknowledged Bateson’s letter and said the Queen was “interested to hear of the discoveries you [Bateson] have enjoyed making as a result of looking into the local history of Alicedale, and thought it kind of you to enclose the copy of a photograph taken during the Royal Tour of South Africa in 1947”.