It was obvious to those of us who had been in the ward long that there was something afoot. Never before had there been such to-ing and fro-ing. New flower vases appeared, clean sheets on the beds, a fresh issue of bedspreads, and a great play with dusters and polishing cloths.
I was personally honoured by the attentions of a pretty Red Cross nurse who informed me that I was to have my nails manicured. The mind boggled. Speculation ran rife. Who was coming? It was an old experienced seaman who came up with the right answer: "The King is going to visit us." There were many derisive jeers at this. "Don't be daft Stripey, he's got too much on his plate to bother with us."
Stripey's years of experience were to prove him right. Indeed the King was coming to see his servicemen in hospital, and more, the Queen would be with him.
If I remember rightly it was about 11 o'clock when the royal party arrived. The first to enter the ward was the Admiral of the Home Fleet. The old Stripey uttered one word, "Bubbles." According to the tale that followed, it seemed that the high ranking officer in question was the lad in blue who sat for the famous picture.
The Admiral came to my bed. "Are you the laddie who was bitten by the shark?" "Yessir." "Good Lord, I must tell His Majesty!" And with that he went off.
The Admiral was a tall handsome man and one could see that as a boy he would catch an artist's eye. He was gone just a few minutes and then through the ward entrance came the King, by his side 'Bubbles'. Following were the Queen and the rest of the royal entourage. The King slowly made his way down the ward, chatting to several of the patients.
Then the King stood at my bedside. He asked how I felt, and then wanted to know something of the events that led to me being in hospital. The King then turned to the Queen who by this time had arrived at the foot of my bed. After a few words from the King, Her Majesty then came to talk to me. Her first words were, "Are you feeling well young man?" and on my replying that I felt in fine form her next enquiry was to ask if I had seen my family. On this point also I was able to give a happy reply. I had the firm impression that had I said "No" to the last enquiry then immediate questions would have been levelled at high authority as to why one Alfred Warren, Air Fitter, no longer dangerously ill, had not been home to see his family, or had not had his family brought to see him. Such is the firm but sure power of Majesty in England. Fortunately I had never found naval authority unreasonable on the question of sick leave. The royal party then moved on out of the ward. There were only three of us in our ward who were war wounded: a commando, an RAF rescue man and me. The three services were well represented. We were of course, after the royal visitors had gone, besieged by the nursing staff asking us what the King and Queen had said. We had our small hour of honour and we were content.
The one thing that stuck in my mind, and was confirmed by the comments of the rest of the ward, was the genuine interest and feeling of their Majesties.