‘A great moment in history’: Holocaust survivor remembers Queen’s 1953 coronation ahead of Jubilee

·2-min read
George Vulkan, 93,  served as a guard at the monarch’s Coronation (George Vulkan)
George Vulkan, 93, served as a guard at the monarch’s Coronation (George Vulkan)

A Holocaust survivor who served as a guard at the Queen’s Coronation in 1953 has spoken of his “pride” as the nation prepares to mark her 70th year on the throne.

George Vulkan, 93, said he was delighted to be able to witness another “great moment in history” seven decades after the monarch was crowned at Westminster Abbey.

Mr Vulkan had a “happy childhood” in Vienna until the arrival of the Nazis in Austria in March 1938, which forced his family to flee to England the following year.

He spent the remainder of his childhood in Hampstead and joined the 4th/7th Royal Dragon Guards for two years of National Service in 1953. His regiment was one of several tasked with ensuring the Queen’s coronation ran smoothly and keeping a watchful eye on spectators.

When the Queen left Buckingham Palace, soldiers from his regiment linked arms and controlled the surge of the thousands-strong crowd.

 (George Vulkan)
(George Vulkan)

Despite the stress, Mr Vulkan said it was a day he would “never forget”.

“The atmosphere in London that day was wonderful and there was so much excitement in the air,” he said.

“The crowd was so friendly, and everyone was holding street parties and hanging up bunting.

“It wasn’t long after the war, so the event gave everyone a huge lift. I felt like I was part of a great moment in history.”

Having escaped the Nazis just over a decade before, Mr Vulkan said that to be at the coronation as an Austrian refugee and feel part of British society was “wonderful”.

“Britain saved our lives. I feel enormous gratitude towards this country, and I feel that for the Queen and carry the feeling into the Jubilee,” he said.

George Vulkan at McCarthy Stone's Randolph House in Harrow (George Vulkan)
George Vulkan at McCarthy Stone's Randolph House in Harrow (George Vulkan)

Since 2018, Mr Vulkan has been living in Randolph House retirement community in Harrow. To mark the Jubilee, they will hold a Platinum Party on Saturday where residents will don their finest 1950s outfits while a band performs classic songs from the era.

Mr Vulkan said it would be a fitting tribute for the monarch.

“I admire the Queen very much. She takes an interest in everything. It was marvellous to watch her open the Elizabeth Line at Paddington Station and see how her face lit up.

“She has amazing stamina as well. I find it very difficult walking with a stick and I think she manages it brilliantly.”

Mr Vulkan lost most of his immediate family in the Holocaust and has spent many years speaking at events organised by the Holocaust Education Trust and other associated charities to raise awareness of the genocide.

“I tell people my family’s story because I owe it to them. It is one of the things I felt was right to do in memory of the people who died.

“We must make sure it never happens again to any group of people who are different in some way.”

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