Flotilla That's Fit for a Queen; Huge Crowds Line Banks of the Thames

Article excerpt

Byline: Rob Phillips

CHEERING crowds greeted the Queen yesterday as she travelled through the heart of London at the head of her majestic 1,000-strong Diamond Jubilee flotilla.

Surrounded by her family the Queen acknowledged the well wishes of thousands who had flocked to the River Thames to witness the once in a lifetime spectacle.

Bridges and embankments were filled with spectators while others found vantage spots in offices blocks, all desperate to catch a glimpse of the myriad of boats, ships and tugs passing by.

The Queen received an outpouring of good wishes from those who had braved cold and wet conditions to see her and the water-borne celebration of her 60-year reign.

After travelling for around seven miles though the capital, the royal barge moored just past Tower Bridge just as predicted heavy showers began to fall.

The Queen was then able to watch the spectacle of the flotilla, that had been travelling behind her, for herself: the narrow boats, tugs, Dunkirk little ships, pleasure cruisers and steam boats.

Moored nearby was HMS President, a navy corvette now used for public functions, where Prime Minister David Cameron and wife Samantha were also watching the ships pass by.

The Queen braved the rain without an umbrella standing under an ornate canopy to watch the ships pass by flanked by Philip and Charles, while behind them stood William, Kate and Harry.

Across the river from the royals the top of the Shard, Europe's tallest building, was shrouded in mist.

The crews of the boats waved as they came into view of the Queen and her family, and their waves were returned by the royals.

Many of those on board the barges, narrow boats, Dunkirk little ships, cruisers and pleasure boats sheltered under umbrellas as the rain came down.

Speaking after his vessel passed the Queen Ian Gilbert, 61, from Shepperton in Surrey, skipper of the Dunkirk little ship Papillon, described the occasion as unique.

He said: "When you're at the helm you tend to miss a lot of what's going on because you're just so focused, but it was very enjoyable and it was all worth it. This isn't going to happen again in our lifetime.

I don't think anyone will put a show like this on again in our lifetime.

"We're particularly proud because we had the biggest contingent of any association and I think that shows the importance of these little boats to the country and to the sovereign."

Upstream earlier, people had gone to great lengths to catch a glimpse of the flotilla, scrambling up lamp posts and step ladders to get a better view.

The crowds were seven rows deep around Lambeth Bridge with spectators even using binoculars to get a closer look at events.

The revellers danced to live rock music creating a happy atmosphere while others sang the national anthem and drank champagne. …