Queen Elizabeth II Surprising Military Role During World War II

Queen Elizabeth II Surprising Military Role During World War II

Queen Elizabeth II, Britain's longest-reigning monarch, has dedicated her life to the service of her country. But, nearly a decade before becoming queen, she became the first female member of the British royal family to serve as an active duty member of the British Armed Forces, making her the last surviving head of state to have served during World War II.

The Queen and her family refused to leave the country during the war instead of staying in England in solidarity with those suffering from the Blitz.

Princess Elizabeth was just 13 years old when war broke out on September 3, 1939. Her mother, also named Elizabeth, was known as the Queen consort at the time, and the Queen was known as Princess Elizabeth.

Many urged the Queen consort to evacuate her children, Elizabeth and Margaret, to Canada, but she refused. "The kids will not leave without me. I'm not going anywhere without the King. And the King will never leave, "she stated.

During the Blitz, the King and Queen visited bombed-out areas to see the devastation caused by enemy air raids. During these visits, the Queen was keenly interested in what was being done to assist people who had lost their homes.

On September 13, 1940, shortly after Germany's bombing campaign against British towns and cities, five high explosive bombs were dropped on Buckingham Palace. The Royal Chapel, inner quadrangle, and Palace gates were all hit, and several workers were injured.

Rather than flee the city under attack, King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth remained at Buckingham Palace in solidarity with those living through the Blitz.

The decision sparked major public support for the Royal Family, and after Buckingham Palace was bombed, the Queen Mother said, "I am glad we have been bombed. Now we can look the East End in the eye."

Princess Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret spent most of the war years at Windsor Castle, like many other British children, were frequently separated from their parents. 

Even from a young age, they were involved in the war effort. They gave a joint wartime broadcast in October 1940; 14-year-old Princess Elizabeth broadcast a message to evacuees on Children's Hour's radio program, urging them to be brave.

Princess Elizabeth stated on the Children's Hour radio program: "We are trying to do all we can to help our gallant sailors, soldiers, and airmen, and we are trying, too, to bear our share of the danger and sadness of war. We know, every one of us, that in the end, all will be well."

When Princess Elizabeth turned 18 in 1944, she insisted on joining the Army; despite her father King George VI's initial reluctance, the Queen joined the military near the end of the war and served in the women's Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). She trained as a truck driver and mechanic; she remains the only female member of the royal family to have served in the Army. 

Princess Elizabeth enlisted in the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), which was similar to the American Women's Army Corps, under Elizabeth Windsor's name as inductee No. 230873. where many women actively served in vital support roles. During the war, the ATS provided critical support, with members serving as anti-aircraft gunners, radio operators, mechanics, and drivers.

She took her duties very seriously and performed admirably. She was very proud of her work and enjoyed every minute of it, but the thought of a future queen repairing automobiles was too much to bear. Her enlistment made headlines worldwide, with newspapers praising the young princess's dedication to the war effort and dubbing her "Princess Auto Mechanic."

According to Collier's Magazine, "one of (Queen Elizabeth II) her major joys was to get dirt under her nails and grease stains on her hands, and display these signs of labor to her friends."

She completed a six-week auto mechanic training course in Aldershot, Surrey, and by the end of the war later that year, she had reached the rank from Second Subaltern to Junior Commander. 

She learned how to disassemble, repair, and rebuild engines and change tires and drive every type of machine she worked on, including jeeps, trucks, and ambulances. She ate most of her meals in an officer's mess hall rather than with other enlistees. Every night, she was driven back to the safety of Windsor Castle.

The war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945. Thousands of people celebrated in London, flooding Trafalgar Square and the Mall leading up to Buckingham Palace, where the King and Queen greeted them from the balcony. As the light faded and the festivities seemed to continue into the night, Princess Elizabeth, dressed in her ATS uniform, slipped into the crowds with her sister to enjoy the festivities. Her military service ended with Japan's surrender later that year.

Seven years later, in 1952, Princess Elizabeth's father died, and she became Queen Elizabeth.

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