The Visit of HM King George V and Queen Mary

And the Royal Yacht Victoria & Albert III to Cardiff Docks 25th-28th June 1912

by Viv Head

The year of 1912 saw the return of the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert III when, on this occasion, she brought King George V and Queen Mary to Cardiff for a four-day official visit. The Royal Yacht berthed in the Queen Alexandra Dock and was used to accommodate the King and Queen for what was her longest ever royal visit to Cardiff. It was to be an exacting time for the Bute Dock Police who provided all of the policing arrangements – the force went onto 12-hour shifts for the week.

The day relief consisted of Inspector Charles Bell, five sergeants and twenty constables; all officers wore new uniforms issued for the occasion. White gloves, medals and helmets with chinstraps down were also the order of the day. The sixteen constables and three sergeants on night duty wore second best uniforms as usual. Superintendent Davies was in overall command of course and was responsible for the security of the Royal party who remained resident on the royal yacht throughout.

The royal party arrived on Tuesday the 25th of June in a thunderstorm that brought torrential rain for most of the afternoon and well into the evening. Amongst those who got a drenching watching the royal events, were a party of boy scouts gathered at the Bute Dry Dock to see the royal carriage pass by on its return from the City Hall. The route from Bute Place to the enclosure alongside the Royal berth was roped off and was constantly monitored by the police. As a precaution, the engineer’s office at the Queen Alexandra Dock was turned into a temporary ambulance room complete with the ambulance carriage normally kept at the old police station building at the East Dock.

The rain that night did not prevent a command performance being given aboard the royal yacht by the award winning Swansea Male Voice Choir who were accommodated on a raised deck and protected by a striped awning overhead. Over a hundred voices filled the night air to provide a harmonious welcome in both Welsh and English to the royal party and their guests which included the Home Secretary Reginald McKenna.

The following day, Wednesday, was scheduled to be a particularly busy day at the docks. The night turn officers, who would normally have finished duty at 8am, were required to parade again at 9.45am in time for the departure by motor car of their Majesties at 10.30. This allowed them sufficient time for breakfast at Solly Andrews’ coffee rooms at the Roath Basin, before returning to the police station to change into their new uniforms. After the morning’s duty was over, the officers were given lunch and stood down, but they were back on duty at 8pm that evening for another twelve-hour shift.

A large crowd of children were allowed to enter the docks at Spillers Bridge, from the Moors District; they were marched along Collingdon Road, led in front by a constable, and taken through the gates into Bute Place. In addition, a good many dock company employees who had served in His Majesty’s forces were drawn up in a parade from Andrews coffee rooms to the East Dock lock bridge. They had mustered at the Roath Warehouses and marched into position by 9.30am. The royal car was drawn up outside the pavilion adjacent to the royal yacht and their Majesties emerged thankfully now into bright sunshine. Officers lined the route from the Roath Basin to the Pierhead to keep it clear and ensure that no-one climbed onto stacks of pitprops or got too close to the royal car. As the carriage passed, officers were to face it and stand properly to attention. In Superintendent Davies’ words:

“The Superintendent feels sure that every officer and constable will do his best that everything will pass off during this historic visit of Their Majesties without any accident or complaint. It is very important that the constables on duty at the various entrances will see that no children is (sic) allowed into the docks without someone responsible in charge of them.”

The superintendent need not have worried; his officers performed their duties impeccably. Such was the regard which the royal household held for the police arrangements, that Superintendent Davies was commanded to attend the royal yacht at 11am on the final day of the visit, along with the Lord Bute, The Lord Mayor of Cardiff, Sir John Wesley Courtis and the Chief Constables of the Cardiff Borough Police, Mr. William McKenzie, and the Glamorgan Constabulary, Captain Lionel Lindsay. These and various other dignitaries were granted an audience with King George who conferred a number of awards. Superintendent Davies was presented with a gold and ruby tie pin by his Majesty, who expressed to him his pleasure at the unpretentious way in which the Docks Police had discharged their onerous duties.

Superintendent Davies was justly proud and he wrote to his officers:
“The Superintendent has very great pleasure in complimenting the whole of the force upon the efficient manner they performed their duties during the visit of Their Majesties the King and Queen. The Superintendent fully appreciates the honour and beautiful present that was conferred upon him by His Majesty, was the direct outcome of the efficient manner the police in general carried out their duties.”

The King and Queen departed by train for Bristol from the Great Western Railway Station at Cardiff later in the day and the royal yacht sailed from the Queen Alexandra Dock at 4pm. Superintendent Davies stood with the Dockmaster, Captain T. N. Rosser, and watched with a mixture of pride and relief as the regal stern disappeared from view around Penarth Head.