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Hubbard veteran recalls meeting Elizabeth before her reign began

HUBBARD — With the recent death of Queen Elizabeth II, Hubbard resident and Army veteran Art Kourian recalled visiting England with other GIs and meeting the then-princess when she came to the gate at Buckingham Palace to greet them.

That was in the spring of 1946 when Kourian was 18. He recently celebrated his 95th birthday.

“There was a small group of American soldiers and some Canadians who were outside at Buckingham Palace where we saw the princess wave to us from one of the upstairs windows. She motioned to us that she was coming down and then walked across the courtyard and came to the front gate. She thanked all of us for our service. I remember her saying ‘Thank you Yanks for what you do for us in England,'” Kourian said.

Kourian said her greeting was pleasant, friendly and casual.

“When she died recently, I remembered the time I saw her. I was only 18, and although I didn’t get to speak to her personally, she was speaking to all the soldiers. It was nice that she came to the gate to speak to us and greeted us very warmly. It was a wonderful experience to remember,” he said.

Kourian said he tells people he remembers meeting the future queen when she was a young British princess at age 19.

“I tell people I was fortunate to get to see the princess back then. She was a year older than me. She was born in 1926, and I was born in 1927. We were all very young back then,” he said.

Kourian said even then, she had guards watching her at the gate and when she walked across the courtyard.

He said years later when she became the queen, he recalled how fun it was to meet her when she was 19. Kourian said the GIs also visited Queen Victoria’s memorial, which is near Buckingham Palace.

During his time in Europe, he and several other soldiers visited four capital cities — London, Brussels, Berlin and Paris.

Kourian was stationed at an Army base in France at the time, and he and six others GIs from his group went to England.

“We were given free passes to get to go to England for a while,” Kourian said, noting he remembers staying at a hotel on Dover Street

Kourian said he does have photos from his time in Europe, but he wishes he would have kept a diary. He said over the years he has returned for visits to England and has tried to find some of the places he visited as a young soldier.

Kourian said during his military service, he went to Camp Kilmer in New Jersey and was taken by train to Staten Island, N.Y., where he boarded the troop ship Webster Victory, which took him to Le Havre, France, just after Christmas.

“We were now officially members of the Army of Occupation at that point,” he had said of his role in Europe and remained primarily in France.

Kourian was a guard patrolman in the Army of Occupation stationed at a huge depot outside of Rouen, France. About 1,100 German prisoners of war were held there, and Kourian and other guards kept watch over them.

He said this was 1946, after the war was over, and they were waiting to be freed.”

The German prisoners were from the Berlin area and were placed in stockades in Berlin until a decision could be made on what to do with them.

He said there was no trouble between the guards and the Germans, many of whom spoke English.

“They just wanted to get home,” Kourian said. “We actually befriended a number of them because they were young guys like ourselves. I was 18. A lot of the German POWs were in their early 20s.”

He was discharged honorably from Camp Kilmer in February 1947 at age 19.

Kourian retired to Hubbard nearly 30 years ago after having lived many years in Conoga Park, Calif., and worked as a technical writer in the aerospace industry.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com

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