Published on: Friday, 16 September 2022
Last updated: Friday, 23 September 2022
Remembering the Queen
Meeting Her Majesty The Queen twice were two of the highlights of railway veteran Alan Neville’s long career.
Alan, who is Greater Anglia’s customer and stakeholder engagement manager, accompanied the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on a return trip between Kings Lynn and London in 2005 and met the Queen again when she started a royal visit to Ely at the town’s rail station in 2009.
“When I was at Ely, when I was standing right next to her, I asked myself: “Am I really standing right next to the monarch, to the Queen? The person who is on all our stamps and banknotes? I really had to pinch myself.
“I remember thinking: “Oh my goodness, I’m actually standing next to the Queen. I’m going to remember this moment for the rest of my life.”
She looked just like she did in photographs and on the TV. “She was very petite and looked totally immaculate.”
In Alan’s role he has accompanied many VIPs, including three Prime Ministers, Leaders of the Opposition, cabinet members, other members of the royal family and a few TV celebrities, but for him, the Queen was the most special. “This absolutely was for me the greatest honour of all. The fact it happened twice in my career is an absolute honour and privilege.”
“She very much put me at ease. She was very, very pleasant. She just came over as a really kind, lovely, wonderful person,” he added.
On the first occasion Alan met the Queen, she and the Duke of Edinburgh were breaking their winter stay in Sandringham to attend a Holocaust Memorial Day event in London. Alan met them at Kings Lynn station and accompanied them by train to Kings Cross station, which he managed at that time. He met them at the station entrance and accompanied them to the train, talking about the weather with the Queen as they walked. During the journey he asked them if they wanted tea or coffee (they didn’t) but otherwise left them to sit by themselves in a First Class compartment. On arrival at Kings Cross, he got off the train before them so he could welcome them to Kings Cross station and walk them to their waiting car, surrounded by very interested onlookers.
He then travelled back with them back to Kings Lynn at the end of the day too and safely saw the Queen and the Duke off the train and into their waiting car at Kings Lynn.
“At the end of that I was absolutely pooped. I’d had to be up very, very early, about 5.30am, and got back about 9pm in the evening. I remember calling my partner and saying: “I need to tell you who I’ve met today because I’d been sworn to secrecy before that.”
When Alan met the Queen at Ely station, four years later, managing Ely station was one of his duties. He ordered a fresh coat of paint for the station sign in honour of the monarch and made sure the station was shipshape. He greeted her off the train – and once again accompanied her to her waiting car.
“This was more of an official visit than previous one. I bowed. I said: “Good morning, Your Majesty. Welcome to Ely Station.” She was on her own this time, with her lady in waiting. She just smiled and said good morning and that was it. I walked with her to her car. There was less interaction than on the first occasion, but I was thrilled that we able to get photographs this time.”
Paying tribute to Her Majesty, Alan said: “I would like to pay tribute to the Queen, the most incredible long serving reign. She gave her service continually to this country and to the Commonwealth.”