A Photographer's Memories of The Queen's Visit to Salisbury.
By late April 2012 I had been a photographer for almost three years, part-time for the first two and full-time for one. I had not long left my full-time job in the mobile phone industry to concentrate on growing my photography business. One of the most important parts of building my knowledge and experience was as a freelance photographer for the Salisbury Journal.
Up to that point I had photographed a wide variety of jobs from local sports, village fates, school events, residents celebrating their 100th birthdays and much more. All were important events locally and as the Journal was a Newspaper of Public Record, capturing these events was important for the newspaper to publish for the circulation area it served.
Working alongside Chief Photographer, Roger Elliott, and his deputy, Tom Gregory, I was fortunate to be able to learn a huge amount from both of them in terms of photography but also about newspapers and the media in general.
By late April of that year the country was shortly to experience the spectacle of the Olympic Games at London 2012. The country was also celebrating with Her Majesty the Queen her Diamond Jubilee year and 60 years on the throne. 60 years was seen as a remarkable achievement only surpassed by the 63-year reign of Queen Victoria. Queen Elizabeth II would need only three more years to become Britain's longest-reigning monarch.
I can’t recall exactly when the Journal was notified about The Queen’s visit – it may have been the Friday before or even the day before the visit? I had been in the Journal’s office chatting with Roger when the announcement came through: HM The Queen & HRH Duke of Edinburgh to visit Salisbury on Tuesday 1st May 2012 as part of Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee tour of the United Kingdom. Plans were put into place straight away. The Journal as one of the two local media companies (the other being Spire FM) were to have prominent positions to capture the event (even better access than the national newspapers and press agencies).
Roger and Tom had decided on their fixed positions along the route from Salisbury Railway Station to Salisbury Cathedral. Carolyn White as another of the Journal’s freelance photographers was also asked to cover the proceedings. All in all, Roger had a team of four covering the event and asked me to go to the train station to “see if you can get a few snaps of them arriving”. Quite a vague request I thought. So I may or may not get some shots of The Queen. Either way I'd do my best.
Tuesday 1st May 2012 came, and it was raining in Salisbury! Typical! The Royal Party was due to arrive at noon, so I got into the city centre at around 1045 and made my way along Fisherton Street. It was still raining and as I cantered along, I look across to Fisherton Railway Bridge and could see that a lorry had got stuck under the bridge! I immediately thought it must be some sort of anti-monarchy protest or possible terrorist incident. After taking a couple of pictures and sending them into the Journal offices I carried on with my walk to the train station. Later it was confirmed that the lorry had simply got stuck due to driver error!
Arriving at the station I entered the foyer to literally no one there! Had I got the wrong day?! After what felt like an hour but was more likely just a minute, a man in a suit entered the foyer and asked if he could help. I gave my name, who I was working for and why I was there. He was the Station Manager for South West Trains and told me to wait in the foyer, not actually confirming that “my name was down”. After a couple of minutes, a man entered the foyer. It was Anthony, another photographer. We said hello and the man in the suit invited both of us onto the platform.
The platform had a couple of police officers and what looked like security staff and that was about it. Anthony and I were asked to stand behind a small barrier and wait. By this time invited members of the public were also beginning to arrive on the platform. Now for reasons only known to myself I assumed (wrongly) that The Queen’s train was going to arrive from London (well, that’s where she lives after all). Looking east along the platform it soon became clear that the train was in fact arriving from the west. The Queen had been in Yeovil and Crewkerne earlier that morning and was travelling back towards Salisbury!
Bearing in mind that my brief was to “get a few snaps of The Queen arriving” I didn’t really know what to expect so I thought I’d just capture what I saw. I couldn’t exactly ask The Queen to stop and pose for me, could I?! What lens should I use?! Long lens or wide lens? Either way I'd only brought one camera with me and had to make a decision, so I decided to stick to the wide lens.
The Royal Train pulled into the station and after a few minutes The Queen stepped off the train to be greeted by The Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire, Sarah Rose Troughton. When Prince Philip stepped off the train, I captured a shot which Roger commented on afterwards that “they looked like any ordinary couple getting off a train”. The Queen and Prince Philip were then introduced to the “bloke in the suit” and ushered towards a lady and her young son who was chosen to present The Queen with flowers. Jacob Bennett of Greentrees Primary School had the honour of presenting The Queen with flowers as Prince Philip and the others looked on.
The Royal Party was then escorted along the platform and into the foyer to the waiting Royal Car. During this time this is where I was snapping away and in one shot The Queen looks straight down the lens at me, literally a few feet from where I was standing! At that moment I didn’t realise that The Queen had given me such a perfect shot, I was to find that out later. As someone from a council estate in southeast London I had never had the opportunity to see The Queen. This was the person I’d seen on the telly and in the papers but never this close! I was able to follow behind them as they made their way through the foyer to the waiting car and the crowds outside the station. They left the station and made their way along Fisherton Street towards The Close.
By now the rain had stopped and I ran as fast as I could towards the City Centre knowing that, at that point, my job was done. I got a few shots of people lining the route to the Cathedral and then made my way to Musicroom on Fisherton Street. My mate Marc had not long taken over as manager of Musicroom and I thought I’d pop in and use his electricity to download my shots. With newspaper jobs its really important to get the images over to the newsdesk asap. Even though The Journal is published on a Thursday they’d still need images for the website and to get the supplement ready. Marc suggested I went up to the first floor, so I headed upstairs found a plug socket and started downloading the images I’d taken. Bearing in mind there were customers in the shop at the time I was having a quick look through the images and then suddenly let out a loud exclamation and a couple of swear words when I realised that The Queen, the lady I’d only ever seen on the telly and in newspapers was looking straight at me in one of my shots! I apologised for my outburst and explained what had happened.
With the images safely downloaded I decided to call Roger to see how it was going and ask what he’d like me to do next. He’d got the shots he needed at The Rifles Museum, in The Close and at the Cathedral and he was heading back to the Journal’s offices. He asked me if I could pop back to the train station for the Royal Party’s departure. Heading back there I really didn’t know what to expect. I got there and “the bloke in the suit” was there waiting for The Queen’s imminent arrival. He asked me if I would like to stay outside the main entrance or to go back onto the platform. I hadn’t thought about it really. Either way I had to make a decision quickly and I couldn’t change my mind. Initially I was thinking of staying outside, after all I’d got shots on the platform already. However, for reasons I can’t explain I said that I’d like to go back onto the platform. This was a split-second decision and one that with the benefit of hindsight was the best decision I’d made all day.
For when the Queen and Duke arrived back at the station, I was the only photographer on the platform as they made their way back to the Royal Train. Again, a small group of people were waiting for her, and The Queen was presented with more flowers. At that point I realised that any images I captured here would be more or less unique.
The Queen and Prince Philip had a chat with the Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire and a man whose name I didn’t get. The Queen boarded the train and that was the last I saw of her. The Duke, however, chose to come back to the open window of the train to continue his chat with the Lord Lieutenant and the other bloke (whose name I didn’t get). It was a much more relaxed Prince Philip just chatting candidly and more relaxed than before. Suddenly a loud roar of laughter was heard from the direction of where Prince Philip was and I can only imagine what The Duke had said at that point! That is where my favourite shot of Prince Philip was captured. If I’d have stayed outside the station, I’d have never got that shot!
It’s funny how these split-second decisions have a huge bearing on the final outcome of a shoot. After that the rest of the day is a blur. Bearing in mind The Queen’s visit was on the Tuesday the paper went to print on the Wednesday afternoon for sale on the Thursday. The Journal team worked quickly to turn around a paper with a 12-page Royal supplement and a fantastic selection of images of what turned out to be the last visit to the city of Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh. After leaving Salisbury the Royal Train parked in sidings near the chalk pit on the Wilton Road overnight with the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh on board! How crazy is that?!
Speaking to Roger a few years later he remarked that The Queen’s visit in 2012 was the last full-scale event properly covered by The Journal. Four photographers all covering the same event from different positions for a local newspaper is something that is now consigned to history in large part due to technological changes and the public’s ability to receive their news in different, more digital ways.
Regardless, it was an event I’ll never forget. It was a great team effort and a job well done. In hindsight I believe Roger asking me to “get a few shots” was his way of taking the pressure off me, a relative rookie photographer back then. I will always be indebted to Roger, and Tom for asking me to be a part of that event, the visit of the longest-reigning Monarch, the like of which I won’t see again in my lifetime.
Whether you’re pro or anti-monarchy the death of Her Majesty The Queen is a profoundly sad moment for a family mourning the loss of their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother and a nation mourning the loss of it’s Head of State.
In the words of Paddington…. Thank You Ma’am, for everything!
All the images from The Queen's Visit to Salisbury are here