As the nation celebrates the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this weekend, staff at Bedford Hospital recall the day that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II opened the new Women’s and Children’s ‘Cygnet Wing’.
On 21 November 1996, preparations were being made, staff briefed, shoes shined and excitement was growing in the newly decorated corridors of the Cygnet Wing.
This staff were preparing for a day unlike any other; the day Her Majesty the Queen came to Bedford Hospital.
“I am proud to say I was present on that special day,” said ANC midwife Paula Rose.
“I was a maternity care assistant in those days and had moved to Cygnet Wing from the North Wing site. It was all very new and we were so proud of our brand new maternity unit and felt privileged that Her Majesty had agreed to officially open it for us.
“I remember all available staff standing on the landings as she walked up the stairs, she had a big smile and seemed very happy to see us all. It was a day to remember, happy times.”
The build-up to the day had staff equally excited and nervous. No stone was left unturned, or surface unpolished as they prepared for Her Majesty’s visit.
Sue Llewellyn has worked on the Riverbank children’s ward for 46 years and remembers the unique preparations for the much-anticipated royal visit.
“All staff and visitors were checked before we could go onto the ward,” she said.
“I remember us ensuring the ward was spick and span polished and cleaned. We were all in our uniforms in a circle in front of reception with our sparkling shoes.
“The matron at the time asked all the ward staff who we felt was the right person to present a bouquet to Her Majesty.
“We all agreed that a young boy who we had been treating for a long term illness should take on the role. He and his mum were overwhelmed by it.”
The day was an emotional one for everybody involved, with staff and patients overjoyed to meet and speak to Her Majesty.
“Her Majesty spoke to us all and I felt so proud to be there I had tears in my eyes,” said Sue.
“I was so close to her I felt as if I could touch her. It was a sparkling day and we all thoroughly enjoyed the visit, as did the children and parents.”
For many, it was a day they will never forget.
Oseiwa Kwapong, consultant paediatrician, remembers, “There was a real buzz in the air that day, everyone was so happy and proud.
“We were proud to have a new building and we were incredibly honoured to have HM Queen Elizabeth II meet us and officially open it. Such happy memories for all of us involved.”