Plans for the coronation broadcast 

6 May 2023 tbs.pm/79074

How the broadcasting and televising of the Coronation ceremony and procession will be carried out by the BBC

 

The King and Queen

The plan on this page shows Westminster Abbey as it will be arranged for the Coronation Service, with the Thrones of the King and Queen, their Chairs of State, and King Edward’s Chair, in which the King is anointed and crowned.

The plan shows also the positions of the BBC observers in the Triforium and Annexe, and the positions of all the microphones by means of which the Service will be broadcast. All these microphones, as well as the many other microphones along the route, are connected with the Control Room in the Abbey, shown in the picture below.

The position of the television cameras at Hyde Park Corner is shown on the plan at the foot of the page.

Cover of the Radio Times

From the Radio Times for 9-16 May 1937

ON the morning of Wednesday, May 12, not only Britain but the world will be awaiting the broadcast of the Coronation of Their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

This will be the first time the Coronation of a British sovereign has been broadcast, and as far as organisation goes it will be the most difficult broadcast ever attempted by the BBC. But if all goes according to plan it should be easy enough for listeners to follow it all – the procession of the King and Queen from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey, the historic ceremony in the Abbey, and the great procession back. Televiewers will also see the Royal procession passing Hyde Park Corner, and the State Coach only a few feet away.

THE ABBEY CONTROL ROOM

THE key position to the whole broadcast is the BBC Control Room on the South side of the Abbey, shown in the plan below. The control point is situated in two small rooms belonging to the Dean’s Verger, between the Abbey itself and the Dean’s House. Here, from early in the morning of Coronation Day, two men will control the complicated broadcast. They are S. J. de Lotbinière, Director of Outside Broadcasts, and R. H. Wood, Engineer-in-Charge of Outside Broadcasts in the London area.
The picture below shows the Control Room with Wood at work. As you will see, lines connect this room with every one of the 58 microphones that will be used to broadcast the ceremony, except the television commentator’s microphones at Apsley Gate.

Besides handling all the BBC broadcasts from places as far apart as the Embankment and Constitution Hill, and sending the programme to Broadcasting House, this Control Room will also have the task of supplying the loudspeakers for the Office of Works stands along the route; the loudspeakers in Westminster Abbey itself, which will make the words of the service audible all over the building; and the sound track for the companies authorised to make talking films.

 

Plan of the Abbey showing BBC positions

 

A radio transmitter will be in readiness on the roof of the Abbey to provide a wireless link with Broadcasting House in the unlikely event of an emergency arising through the failure of other means of communication.

There is another Control Room, in Middlesex Guildhall, opposite the Abbey. This second Control Room, where H. H. Thompson, Outside Broadcasts Superintendent Engineer, will be in charge, will be responsible for all the broadcasts by foreign commentators to their own countries, arrangements for which are also being made by the BBC.

There will be ten foreign commentators at the Guildhall, each in a sound-proof box, and four more opposite Buckingham Palace; they include representatives of the Argentine, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Hungary, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Yugoslavia, and the United States. Their commentaries will go through the Foreign Control Room in the Guildhall before passing to the International Trunk Exchange of the G.P.O.

But even for the foreign broadcasts, the sounds that give life to the commentaries including those from the Abbey itself-will come through the one small Control Room in the Abbey shown in the picture below.

As for television, the television control room is on wheels. A control van will be drawn up some 400 feet [122m] West of the cameras at Apsley Gate, linked by special cables to the cameras and microphones on one side, and on the other to Broadcasting House and Alexandra Palace. Alongside the control van will be a second van containing an ultra-short-wave transmitter capable of sending the visual part of the programme by wireless link to Alexandra Palace if for any reason the special television cable should fail.

 

A picture of the inside of the control room, with text and arrows outside showing the inputs and outputs

 

THE PROCESSION SETS OUT

The broadcast begins at 10.15 am. By that time seat-holders in the Abbey will have been there for hours. Most of the processions to the Abbey will have arrived. (Remember that there are numerous processions to the Abbey coming back, there is only the one grand procession escorting the newly-crowned King and Queen.)

By 10.15 the procession of Queen Mary will be on its way. The procession of the King and Queen will not yet have set out.

The first broadcasters will be the BBC observers outside Buckingham Palace (John Snagge) and at Middlesex Guildhall (George Blake). They will describe the scene as the crowds wait for the King.

 

Plan of the coronation procession route

The route of the Coronation Procession

 

10.30 a.m. The broadcast switches back to the Palace; and to the inside of the Palace this time. The next BBC observer, A. W. Dobbin, will speak from a room looking on to the inner courtyard where the King and Queen enter the State Coach. It is from this room that the King himself will broadcast at night.

As soon as the Royal procession leaves the Palace, Snagge will see it and report. As the procession starts down the Mall the broadcast will shift to the Abbey, where Howard Marshall will set the scene and give listeners an outline of the solemn service that they are to hear. He will be stationed in the triforium, high up beyond the altar, and with him will be the Rev. F. A. Iremonger, Chaplain to the King and Director of Religion in the BBC.

Before 10.45 a.m. the procession should have reached the Cenotaph in Whitehall, and from the observation point in the Ministry of Labour building fronting on Whitehall, Harold Abrahams will describe its passage through the street that has been called the Heart of Empire. So into Parliament Square and the entry to the Abbey, described from Middlesex Guildhall by George Blake.
The next broadcast comes from the Annexe, built out before the West Door of the Abbey. From the position shown on the plan above, looking down on the Hall of Assembly, Michael Standing will have the difficult task of describing the Great Proceeding into the Abbey until the Service begins with the Anthem ‘I was glad when they said unto me’.

THE ABBEY SERVICE

There will be no broadcast commentary on the service itself. As the plan shows, 28 microphones will pick up everything that is said and sung, and the majestic rubrics of the historic service will be read by Mr. Iremonger from his position in the triforium. There will be one break in the broadcast at the most solemn and intimate moment of the Communion Service after the Sanctus, during the Prayer of Consecration and the Communion of the King and Queen the microphones in the Abbey will be shut off, and singers in St. Margaret’s Church will broadcast a Communion hymn. Apart from this, listeners will hear everything in the service from the Recognition of the King by the People and his taking of the Oath until the final Te Deum swells out triumphant, and Howard Marshall describes the scene as the King and Queen move down towards the West Door.

 

A man behind a television camera

Television cameras will be at Hyde Park Corner, as shown on the plan, transmitting direct pictures of the procession as it passes through Apsley Gate only a few feet away

 

THE PROCESSION FROM THE ABBEY

Here comes another change in the broadcast. By now it will be, probably, 1.45 p.m. When the procession leaves the Abbey on its long journey through the streets, the BBC will not attempt to describe events in detail. But listeners need not be afraid of losing touch. There will be microphones along the route on the Embankment, by the statue of King Charles in Trafalgar Square, at St. James’s Palace, and at Piccadilly Circus and the arrival of the Royal coach at these points will be told in sound, with any necessary comments by de Lotbinière in the Control Room at the Abbey, still the nerve-centre of the broadcast.

Some time after 2 p.m. the head of the procession will reach Hyde Park Corner, and here it will run the gauntlet of the television cameras, for the first time transmitting a historic event. With them at Apsley Gate will be Frederick Grisewood, whose task it will be to supplement the television images that are going out.

The plan on this page shows clearly what televiewers will see. Before the procession comes in sight the cameras will give views of the crowds and the stands inside the Park, and across Hyde Park Corner to St. George’s Hospital and Wellington Arch. When the procession reaches Stanhope Gate, on its way down East Carriage Road, the telephoto lens will give viewers their first sight of it. Then as it nears Apsley Gate the cameras will come into close-up, until the State Coach passes through the gate, within a few feet of the camera. Finally, television will follow the procession, by means of the camera on the South side of the gate, until it passes through the Wellington Arch leading to Constitution Hill.

 

Boxout from the Radio Times showing the listing for "The Empire's Homage" programme on the National.

 

BACK TO BUCKINGHAM PALACE

Grisewood’s commentary will be broadcast only to televiewers, but listeners will come into touch with the procession again when it crosses Hyde Park Corner and passes down Constitution Hill. Here is another broadcasting point, and Thomas Woodrooffe will review the whole cavalcade. It will be nearly two-and-a-half miles long and take three-quarters-of-an-hour to pass, but he will not attempt to talk all the time. The sounds of the marching troops and the bands will help listeners to make their own picture of what he sees.

Now the last stage of the journey has been reached. Snagge, outside the Palace, will have been listening to Woodrooffe’s broadcast, and he will supplement it as the procession circles the Victoria Memorial before it enters the Palace gates. So listeners will be able to follow the King and Queen back into the inner courtyard, and even perhaps to follow the progress of the King as he goes to the balcony to speak to the crowds outside.

 

A plan of the procession route

This plan shows the positions of the television cameras at Hyde Park Corner, the television control van, and the portable sound transmitter ready for use if transmission by cable fails

 

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