08 September 2022
It was the end of an era when, on 8 September, Buckingham Palace announced that Her Majesty, The Queen had passed away peacefully in her sleep.
The 96-year old monarch was the Commander in Chief of the Armed Force and held honorary ranks in dozens of regiments in the UK and Commonwealth. Many of these military appointments will be inherited automatically by King Charles, just as HM Queen inherited many from her father, King George VI. The Army’s Chief of General Staff, the Royal Navy’s First Sea Lord and the RAF’s Chief of Air Staff all gave regular reports to the Queen and the Navy’s flagship warship, the HMS Queen Elizabeth was named in her honour.
Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the head of the Armed Forces, released a statement via the Ministry of Defence: ‘On behalf of our Armed Forces, I would like to express our condolences to His Majesty the King, and to the Royal Family. Through her own service in the Second World War, and as the wife, mother, and grandmother of service personnel, the Queen understood better than most the burdens and the glory of life in uniform. In the coming days, our sailors, soldiers and aviators must perform their final duty to a much-loved sovereign. We do so with admiration and gratitude.’
The First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sir Ben Key had this to say: ‘As the daughter, wife and mother of Royal Naval officers, Her Majesty had a close affinity with the men and women in her Royal Navy and those who support us and she took close personal interest in their wellbeing, as well as that of their families. We owe her a debt we can never repay. May she rest in peace. God Save the King.’
The Queen’s close relationship with the military started at an early age when she became the only female member of the Royal Family to ever serve in the military when she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service at the age of 18 in 1944. There she trained as a mechanic, being known in the press at the time as Princess Auto Mechanic. She started as a second subaltern was later promoted to Junior Commander, the equivalent of Captain. When war ended she was famously photographed on the balcony of Buckingham Palace with the King and Queen, Princess Anne and Winston Churchill. Later that night, dressed in her ATS uniform, she and Princess Anne slipped away to join the crowds. She told the BBC in 1985, “I remember we were terrified of being recognised so I pulled my uniform cap well down over my eyes … There were lines of unknown people linking arms and walking down Whitehall, and all of us were swept along by tides of happiness and relief.”
The November edition of The Armourer will publish a selection of photos of Queen Elizabeth's wartime service in the ATS as a tribute.
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