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Queen Elizabeth captures Bundaberg’s heart

Queen Elizabeth Bundaberg
Crowds waving at Queen Elizabeth at the Bundaberg Showgrounds when her majesty visited the region on 11 March 1954. Photo: bun02792 Picture Bundaberg

Bundaberg residents woke on Friday 9 September, to the news Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II had passed away after serving as the longest-reigning monarch of the Commonwealth.

News of her death quickly spread around the world and her son Charles released the following statement:

“The death of my beloved Mother, Her Majesty The Queen, is a moment of the greatest sadness for me and all members of my family,” the statement read.

“We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished Sovereign and a much-loved Mother.  I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world.  

“During this period of mourning and change, my family and I will be comforted and sustained by our knowledge of the respect and deep affection in which The Queen was so widely held.”

Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Bundaberg

During her first royal tour of Australia in March 1954, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was the only reigning monarch to visit Queensland. She was accompanied by her husband His Royal Highness Prince Phillip, The Duke of Edinburgh.

Queen Elizabeth captured the hearts of the Bundaberg people, who had been preparing for the special occasion for almost a year, when she visited Bundaberg on Thursday 11 March 1954.

Queen Elizabeth Bundaberg
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip at the Bundaberg Showgrounds during her Coronation visit in 1954. Photo: bun00836 Picture Bundaberg

The research undertaken by the Bundaberg Regional Libraries' Heritage Team shares the details of the magnificent event.

More than 30,000 community members turned out for the momentous occasion and the months of preparation for the fleeting two-hour visit had paid off.

The swiftness of Queen Elizabeth’s visit to the region did not deter the City Council, and Mayor Fred Buss was proud it would be the first time in Queensland that children would take part in the civic reception.

“From what he had read and heard of visits to other places so far …in most cases the Queen attended other gatherings to see the children, but in Bundaberg children would be present when he presented his address of welcome, and the children would hear her reply,” the article states.

“A local service club sponsored a garden competition to encourage residents along the proposed route to ‘brighten their gardens’, and the Council was pleased to report that ‘…apart from only one or two exceptions, everyone who had been asked to decorate their premises had agreed to do so'.”

The local newspaper, in the 40 days before the visit, had published 57 articles about the forthcoming event, and the week before her visit the paper published daily hints for residents on how to cope with the whole experience.

A full-scale dress rehearsal was held at the Bundaberg Showgrounds days before the royal visit, and the complete royal reception procedure was run through numerous times until it was faultless.

Ten trains arrived in Bundaberg early Thursday morning, from Maryborough, Gympie, Isis, Monto, Kingaroy, Morganville, Mt Perry and Gladstone, with more than 5000 people on board and most had returned home by 9 pm that same night.

Arrival of the Queen in Bundaberg

As the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh left Brisbane Airport at 10.40 am on Thursday 11 March, the crowd of almost 30,000 people already at the Bundaberg Showgrounds cheered wildly.

The progress of the flight to Bundaberg was broadcast at the Bundaberg Showgrounds for the 10,000 people waiting at the Bundaberg Airport.

The crowds en route to Bundaberg Showgrounds were 20 deep in places, with an estimated 30,000 people positioned between the hospital, and the corner of Maryborough and Woongarrra Streets.

“The Queen even directed the driver of the royal Humber to slow down even further than six miles per hour, because of the number of people along the streets,” the article reads.

A broadcast of the progress through Bundaberg was warmly received by the waiting crowds, with enthusiastic clapping whenever a well-known name or city landmark was mentioned.

As the Humber the Queen was travelling in turned into the showgrounds at 12.40 pm, the crowd went wild with cheering and flags waving, and the 47th Battalion pipers formed a guard of honour on the ramp leading to the oval.

Crowds stood as the Royal couple ascended the dais, and the official ceremony began with the Bundaberg Municipal Band playing the national anthem as the crowd joined in.

After the official welcome from Mayor Buss, he and his daughter Bettina presented the Queen with a bouquet of flowers.

Queen Elizabeth Bundaberg
Queen Elizabeth visited Bundaberg on March 11, 1954 during her Coronation tour. Bundaberg Mayor Fred Buss hosts a public reception for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip at the Bundaberg Showgrounds. His daughter Bettina welcomes the Queen. Photo: bun00662 Picture Bundaberg

After the civic reception, the Queen and Duke transferred to the royal Landrover, and began the slow circuit of the oval to inspect the rows of school children and youth organisations who had travelled across the Wide Bay to see royalty.

After a 15 minute drive through the cheering children, the Queen and the Duke transferred back to the Humber tourer, and along with their escorts, departed Bundaberg Showgrounds for the drive back to the airport.

On returning to the Airport, the royal couple were met by a crowd of 15,000 people to see them off.

Before boarding the flight to Oakey, the Queen thanked Mayor Buss for the warm welcome from the Bundaberg community and she commented on the how beautiful the region was.

“I thank you and the people of Bundaberg and district for your lovely welcome,” she said.

“We enjoyed the flight over Bundaberg, enabling us to see your lovely city and district.

“The green canefields and variegated colour made a splendid sight from the plane.”

The Queen’s final comment was to Mayor Buss about Bundaberg Rum – she asked where it was distilled, and whether he liked to drink it.

Never one to miss an opportunity, Mayor Buss quickly replied that he did, but that it was too dear and cost one shilling a nip when it should only cost one penny, because of excise duty from the Government.

Apparently, the royal couple were very amused with his reply.

The Queen and Duke then entered the aircraft, turned for one last wave to the crowd, and left for the next stage of the royal tour.

The Queen’s visit to the Bundaberg Region was the first of 16 visits to Australia, and eight to Queensland, as the Queen.

Queen Elizabeth will be remembered fondly as the longest-reigning monarch of the Commonwealth, having succeeded to the throne on 6 February 1952 on the death of her father, King George VI.

For community members who would like to share their condolences an official State of Queensland Condolence Book can be found here.

Buckingham Palace has indicated that online “Messages of Support and Condolence” are preferred over the use of physical condolence books.

The messages of support and condolence provided to the State of Queensland Condolence Book will then be collated and forwarded via Government House Queensland for transmission to Buckingham Palace.

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