The British Empire Exhibition, Wembley

A Diary of Royal Visits and other Notable Events in 1924.

Part 2.

by

Alan Sabey

Saturday 26 July.

‘Newfoundland Day’ brought Women’s Week to a close.

Wednesday 30 July.

Visit to the exhibition by the Duke of Connaught who toured round in a Railodok car. He visited Cyprus, Palestine, Malta, British Guiana, Newfoundland and Fiji. He took a ride on the Neverstop Railway which he declared was a new form of locomotion to him. He was interested to know that there were no drivers or brakes and 270,000 passengers had been carried in the last four weeks. He said it gave a good view over the exhibition.

Friday 1 August.

Jamboree of Scouts of Empire in the Stadium attended by the Duke of Connaught and Lord Baden-Powell.

Sunday 3 August.

12,000 scouts attended a Thanksgiving Service in the Stadium.

Wednesday 6 August.

The Duke of York attended a display given by 6,000 cubs.

Friday 8 August.

Final day of the Scout Jamboree.

Sunday 10 August.

The Prince of Wales President of the Fellowship (founded 1923) has accepted the first copy of a Certificate of Association Branch. The ordinary subscription is two guineas, Association Branch subscription is five shillings. For this you get a signed certificate, a badge and two tickets for the exhibition. The purpose of the Fellowship and its associated branches is to strive to encourage a ‘family feeling’ within the Empire so that the splendid spirit of fellowship which was shown during the war can be evoked in the task of peace reconstruction.

Tuesday 12 August.

10,000,000th visitor to the exhibition and one million visitors to the Queens Dolls House.

Wednesday 20 August.

Case at Wealdstone Court where three men were accused of assaulting an attendant at the Exhibition who was badly injured through being kicked and beaten. Prison sentences of up to four months were given.

Wednesday 27 August.

Welsh music played at Wembley. Various concerts and choirs attended from all over Wales. 3,000 voices sang to an audience of nearly 30,000. They listened to ‘Land of my Fathers’, ‘Men of Harlech’ and ‘All through the Night’.

Friday 29 August.

Discussions took place as to whether the exhibition would open again in 1925. This was undecided as there was a difficulty in getting many of the Dominions to take part for a second year.

Saturday 30 August.

The final performance of the Pageant of Empire. This was followed by a military pageant which lasted for two weeks. A Searchlight and Torchlight Tattoo was the main feature. The rehearsals took place in pouring rain, and the ground got very slippery, but they carried on.

Tuesday 2 September.

Nearly 70,000 witnessed the second performance of the Torchlight Tattoo, mainly Londoners who watched the aircraft manoeuvring to miss the searchlights. A hose pipe burst sending a jet of water unexpectedly into the air.

Friday 5 September.

There was an announcement in the Daily Telegraph that the exhibition would close no earlier than 31 October and no later than 11 November. The actual date had not been fixed and would depend on a decision as to whether Armistice Day celebrations would be held at Wembley.

Wednesday 10 September.

It was announced that as the Tattoo had proved to be the most popular event staged in the Stadium it had been decided to extend it until the 20 September.

Monday 15 September.

Start of the Carnival Fortnight. Each evening from 7.00 processions, dancing and general festivities including fancy dress parades. Costumes from the Pageant of Empire were sold to the public for a nominal sum. There was a contest to choose the prettiest girl employed at Wembley. However those girls who took part in the Pageant of Beauty were excluded as it was felt they would have an unfair advantage over the others.

Canada and Australia had singing round a camp fire outside their pavilions and Stedman’s troupe of Ballet dancers gave demonstrations in Kingsway. During the Carnival Fortnight there was a visit by the Emir of Katania, one of the ruling princes of Nigeria, his son and two of his wives.

Thursday 18 September.

Liverpool Civic Week. There was a display of models showing the advancement of shipping including models of paddle steamers dating back 100 years to modern liners. Selections of music played by the Liverpool City Police Band and a display of Liverpool cart horses. Among the speeches was an address by the Right Hon. T. P. O’Connor MP on ‘37 years of Liverpool Life’.

October.

In October it was reported that 100 black opals had been added to the Australian Mineral exhibit which had been so popular with visitors since the exhibition first opened.

Monday 6 October.

The New Zealand Rugby team ‘The All Blacks’ paid a brief visit to the exhibition and fitted in a lot of sight seeing in a short time.

Wednesday 15 October.

Visit by the Duke of Connaught and his daughter Lady Patricia Ramsey. They arrived at 2.30 and proceeded in the Royal Railodok to the Canadian Pavilion where they inspected the Band of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry of which Lady Patricia was Hon Colonel. The Royal party attended a performance at the central bandstand, then tea was taken at the Lucullus Restaurant.

Wednesday 22 October.

Visit by the Duke and Duchess of York. They arrived shortly after 2.30 and inspected the South African Pavilion being conducted round by Sir Alfred Sharp and Major Richmond. After their conducted tour they attended a reception in the Lucullus Restaurant. There were large enthusiastic crowds. The Duchess was President of the women’s section of the exhibition. They left at 5.30.

Thursday 23 October.

Lord Stevenson speaking at a dinner in the Lucullus Restaurant at which he and Lady Stevenson had entertained administration staff and those of Dominion and Colonial pavilions said that the exhibition was so vast that it was impossible to see it in six months, and it would be a shame to scrap it. Some colonies were already saying that they would not take part again if it re-opened in 1925.

Friday 1 November.

In the afternoon the exhibition was closed by the Prince of Wales in pouring rain. Band of Welsh Guards and Scottish Pipers played marches and songs of the Empire. The Prince in his speech said that the exhibition had achieved what it had set out to do. Prayers and hymns were led by the Bishop of Willesden. The public could remain in the grounds until 11 pm when one by one the illuminations on the pavilions were extinguished.

Part 3 will deal with a diary for the 1925 exhibition.

© Exhibition Study Group 2001

Index