AP mast (2K)

DIRECT TELEVISION from ALEXANDRA PALACE

by Arthur Dungate

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Recording the Coronation

Coronation Day title (4K)  Coronation RT (13K) Coronation Day title (4K)

On Tuesday 2nd of June, 1953 was the Coronation of our Queen, Elizabeth II. Above is the front page of the Radio Times for that week - it cost only threepence (3d)! That was in old "lsd" money. In 1999, eighteen years after decimalisation, and the results of inflation, Radio Times today costs - 85p.

Prior to the Coronation, television was not taken seriously by the "Establishment" and the Government of the day refused to allow the tv cameras inside Westminster Abbey for the Coronation Service.

newspaper headline (7K)

After protracted discussions and opposition from the Government (especially the Cabinet and Prime Minister Winston Churchill) the Queen herself overuled them and decided that the Coronation would be televised. As Her Majesty remarked at the time, it was she who was to be crowned, not the Cabinet!

monitors in Mobile Control Room (5K)

All the resources of the BBC were called into action for that day, including all Outside Broadcast units from all over the country.

outside broadcast camera (6K)

Even though at the start it had been uncertain if the televising of the Coronation would take place, a year of planning had occurred to prepare for this day.

sound mixer (6K)
mobile control room (6K)

The story of these preparations is related in "The Year That Made The Day" published by the BBC shortly afterwards.

Peter Dimmock, who had recently become Head of Television Outside Broadcasts, was in charge of the event.

Peter Dimmock in the MCR (6K)

At AP both shifts were on duty. I'd never seen the Palace so crowded! My job during the day was at Kays Film Laboratories at Finsbury Park, just down the hill from AP, where I was in the darkroom loading the film magazines from the Suppressed Frame Telerecording system.

Suppressed Frame telerecording machine at AP (8K)

This telerecording system had been developed by BBC Research Department and installed at AP in CTR next to the Cintel telecine machines especially for the Coronation. They literally built themselves into a corner of CTR and with that breeze-block wall so close I don't know how they got around the machines.....

In charge of the project was a man called C.B.B. Wood. I don't think he took me too seriously because whenever I came into the room he'd say loudly "Look! - it's Arthur Dungate!", which was a bit embarrassing.....

Later, C.B.B. Wood gave a lecture to the Television Society describing the design of the system.

During the Coronation transmission when each 1,000ft magazine of 35mm film had gone through, it was taken off and immediately sent down, still in the camera magazine to Kays Labs by despatch rider.

When I received each magazine I took out the exposed film and re-loaded the magazine with new film for it to be taken back to AP, the exposed roll then being immediately developed and printed. In between I'd go into Kays Preview Theatre and watch the print being projected, so I saw the Coronation about 30 minutes after each bit had actually happened.

Coronation coach (9K)
The Crowning (8K)

The Suppressed Frame recording was used for the edited Coronation Service which we transmitted from Cintel that evening. In parallel with this, the whole of the Coronation Day broadcast was recorded at Lime Grove on the Moye-Mechau system - all 42 reels of it..... This was for archive purposes.

The service in Westminster Abbey ended naturally enough, with a fanfare and the National Anthem. Just after that, Elgar's Pomp & Circumstance March No 1 was to be played. Now due to the geography of the interior of the Abbey, it wasn't possible for all the participants to see everything that was going on, the organ was in one place, the choir in another, and the orchestra in yet a different part. So they had to have several conductors, for the orchestra, choir etc.

Unfortunately, they were not always in step with each other and the start of Elgar's march sounded most peculiar.....

conductor (3K)

The Hot Kine

Meanwhile, at AP, engineers from CBC the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, had come over and installed their own telerecording system, which used 16mm film, but in very large rolls, which, after going through the camera, went into a developing system, and then was projected, all this happening continuously in one long length, and all in one room. It was fascinating. We called it the "Hot Kine".

When the CBC engineers had set up this equipment and were testing it, they remarked that they had never before achieved such good results - this being due to the high quality of the pictures received by them from the BBC.

The Coronation television programme started at 10.15am with Sylvia Peters welcoming viewers:

Sylvia Peters (6K)

"This is a great and joyous day for us all. In a few minutes our Queen starts on her journey from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey, there to be crowned Queen Elizabeth the second.

... For the first time in history through the medium of television the ancient and noble rite of a Coronation Service will be witnessed by millions of Her Majesty's subjects.
" (The full text of this announcement is in the Schedules - see below.)

Coronation Day title (3K)

Coronation Day Schedules
The Coronation Day Schedules and Programme Allocations give the full details of the day's transmissions. They provide a complete picture of what the BBC Television Service did on that historic day, Tuesday 2 June 1953.

Coronation Day title (3K)

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The Coronation that Never Was.....