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Retired cop Alan Francis plotted the Queen's coronation route
AS THE Queen celebrates her Diamond Jubilee, a retired police officer from Petts Wood will be reliving his own special role in creating history - thanks to his handwriting skills.
Alan Francis had not long been in the force when he was told the Met's divisional plan-drawer wanted to see him.
The puzzled 22-year-old duly went along to find out he was wanted to help draw plans of Westminster on which police planning for the Queen's coronation would be based.
It turned out he had been chosen because of his excellent handwriting skills, following a survey of personnel.
Thanks to rigorous handwriting lessons, Mr Francis left school able to write accurately and at speed, and to copperplate standard.
Mr Francis was assigned to help Police Constable James Brown measure the whole route of the coronation, which included the Royal Parks, Oxford Street, Regent Street, Piccadilly, Trafalgar Square, Northumberland Avenue, the Thames Embankment and Westminster Abbey.
He plotted a 'forward' and 'return' route drawn to a scale of 88ft to one inch, with every street having a printed road width with a stated distance from building to building.
The plan, which took a year to complete, enabled organisers to make decisions on removing traffic islands, where to put crush barriers, first aid posts, refreshment tents, viewing stands, toilets and fire brigade and police posts.
With all Ordnance Survey maps pre-war and therefore out of date, Mr Francis had his work cut out penning all street and building names in block Gill Sans Serif capitals.
He spent hours out on the streets with a tape measure using the brass standard measurements embedded in the stonework at Trafalgar Square for accuracy.
Father-of-three Mr Francis, now 82, said: "We drew up the plan and New Scotland Yard decided where they wanted to be.
"They told us they wanted an accurate plan so if the commander from the Midlands finds himself in Whitehall, he has his plan and knows what the widths are. They could plan in advance.
"I did thousands of measurements, I still remember some - for example the Mall was 66ft across.
"We measured between every traffic island on the whole road and the widths between every building.
"If you had bands coming up or a tricky carriage, you didn't want a traffic island in the way, so they took them out where necessary.
"We would go out with a tape and if there was traffic coming, we developed a technique called the 'flick' (to reel the tape back in) so cars wouldn't go over it.
"These days surveyors can just point a gadget at a wall to make exact measurements. We didn't even have a bleep."
The meticulous plans were huge - measuring four metres long by three metres high.
Not only did he come with the requisite handwriting skills, but he also had his architect father's drawing board, which he used to draw the plan.
The scars on the board from the compass points and curvage pens are still visible to this day.
Mr Francis, who retired as a chief superintendent for the City of London Police in 1978, said: "It was a great experience. As a reward me and Jim Brown were put outside the Abbey on coronation day. We saw everything.
"I realise that I took it for granted at the time. I didn't appreciate the enormity of the event.
"But today I see kids enjoying themselves with street parties and I think I can remember all that 60 years ago."
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