[Pic: Rob Coles]
A recent image l published of a Union flag – hanging from a broken rope – brought back memories for our ‘man with a cam’ Rob Coles.
‘When HRH Princess Anne gave birth to her first child, on 15th May 1981, it was not known by those in charge of protocol of such things whether the event merited the flying of the flag on the Empire Hotel – then being the Ministry of Defence and a Crown Building.
It was decided, locally, that it should so Earnest, whose office was on the first floor, was tasked with hoisting the flag, and being ex Royal Navy he knew about such things.
Out of his office and down corridor trots Ern, with flag under arm, into lift to fourth floor, up wooden stairs to floor not served by lift, out of a window, up a vertical iron ladder, over the battlements, onto the roof of the “castle” tower and flag pole.
The ladder can still be seen from Orange Grove and – take it from me – it is un-nerving to look straight down to the pavement from the ladder.
With flag correctly hoisted Ern returns over the battlements, down the ladder, through the window, down the wooden stairs, lift to first floor and office. No sooner is a cup of tea poured, a phone call is received from London, “the birth does not merit the flying of the flag”.
Off Ern goes, corridor, lift, stairs, window ladder, battlements, roof and lowers flag. He retraces his steps with flag to a cold cup of tea.
Phone call from London, “sorry correct protocol instructs that the flag should be flown. Out of office, corridor, lift etc, up the pole goes the flag again and Ern goes back to his office.
Phone call from Army Officer living in Bathwick Hill, “why is your flag at half mast, suggests Ern should check”. Ern goes out of office corridor this time to ground floor, into Orange Grove, and yes, the flag is at half mast.
This time starting from the ground floor, lift, stairs, ladder, battlements, roof and flag raised to full height. Retracing his steps Ern returns to his office in time to go to lunch
Where is Ernest when we need him!
PS. I forgot to mention that Earnest was an excellent railway photographer and sound recordest and that was how we met!’