As Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II has devoted her life to the service of her nation. However almost a decade earlier than she grew to become queen, she entered one other type of service when she grew to become the primary feminine member of the British royal household to develop into an lively obligation member of the British Armed Forces — making her the final surviving head of state to have served throughout World Warfare II.
Elizabeth led a really sheltered life up till WWII
When Elizabeth was born in April 1926, she wasn’t destined for the throne. Her father Albert, often known as “Bertie” to his household, was the second son of King George V. Elizabeth and her youthful sister Margaret have been doted on by their dad and mom, along with her father dubbing the household, “we 4.” It was a cushty however strictly confined upbringing.
Elizabeth’s world was turned the other way up in 1936, following George V’s demise and the abdication of Elizabeth’s uncle Edward VIII simply months later. Edward’s choice to forged apart the crown to marry Wallis Simpson left her father, now King George VI, on the throne and 10-year-old Elizabeth as inheritor presumptive.
READ MORE: Why Edward VIII Abdicated the Throne to Marry Wallis Simpson
World Warfare II was a pivotal second for the royal household
George VI struggled to seek out his footing after assuming the throne. Tentative, nervous and vulnerable to each ailing well being and a relentless stutter, he discovered public speeches and appearances agonizing. However, because the battle started, he discovered his footing. Bolstered by his spouse and authorities officers, together with Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the king helped rally the morale of the British folks, refusing to go away London regardless of repeated aerial assaults by Nazi planes that left cities in ruins. He and the queen repeatedly visited these most devastated by the assaults, and when one bombing in September 1940 badly broken a portion of Buckingham Fort, bringing the hazards of the battle to the royal’s doorstep, the queen famous, “Now I can look the East Finish within the face.”
With the looming risk of a German invasion, the British authorities urged the queen to go away for Canada along with her daughters. She refused, stating, “The kids will not go with out me. I will not go away with out the King. And the King won’t ever go away.” However, like 1000’s of different kids who have been evacuated from British cities, Elizabeth and Margaret did go away London, spending a lot of the battle at Windsor Fort. In 1940, the 2 sisters made considered one of their first public addresses, recording a radio broadcast to their fellow kids in Britain and British colonies and dominions world wide.
PHOTOS: Queen Elizabeth’s Royal Childhood
Elizabeth needed to combat to affix the navy
With the British folks rallying to trigger, Elizabeth, like many different younger Britons, yearned to do her half. However her protecting dad and mom refused to permit her to enlist, noting that no feminine member of the royal household had ever joined the navy. Elizabeth was a dutiful daughter, however she was additionally strong-willed. It took greater than a yr of debate earlier than her household lastly relented in early 1945, giving the now 19-year-old permission to affix up.
That February she joined the Girls’s Auxiliary Territory Service (just like the American Girls’s Military Corps or WACs), registered as inductee No. 230873, beneath the title Elizabeth Windsor. The ATS offered key help throughout the battle, with its members serving as anti-aircraft gunners, radio operators, mechanics and drivers.
READ MORE: The Dramatic Variations Between Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret
The sheltered princess took to her new function with gusto
She underwent a six-week auto mechanic coaching course at Aldershot in Surrey, and by July had risen from the rank of Second Subaltern to Junior Commander. She discovered how one can deconstruct, restore and rebuild engines and alter tires, and discovered how one can drive each sort of machine she labored on, together with jeeps, vans and ambulances. As a 1947 Collier’s journal article famous of the overalls-clad teen, “Certainly one of her main joys was to get grime beneath her nails and grease stains in her arms, and show these indicators of labor to her pals.”
For the primary time, Elizabeth labored alongside her fellow Brits, relishing the liberty she had beforehand been denied. However there have been concessions to her rank. She ate lots of her meals in an officer’s mess corridor, not with different enlistees. And every night time she was pushed house to the security of Windsor Fort.
PHOTOS: Queen Elizabeth within the Army
The Related Press dubbed her ‘Princess Auto Mechanic’
Elizabeth took her ATS duties significantly, however the concept of a future queen repairing vehicles proved irresistible. Her enlistment made headlines world wide, with newspapers applauding the younger princess’ dedication to the battle effort and calling her “Princess Auto Mechanic.” And although her dad and mom had proved proof against the concept of her becoming a member of the navy, they have been immensely happy with their daughter, paying a go to to her ATS unit in April 1945, with youthful daughter Margaret — and a fleet of reporters and newsreel cameramen — in tow.
Elizabeth was nonetheless within the ATS when Germany surrendered on Could 8, 1945, and he or she and Margaret famously slipped out of Buckingham Palace to affix revelers celebrating in London. Her navy service ended with Japan’s give up later that yr. The battle was over, nevertheless it had taken its toll on the royal household. George VI had helped lead his nation in its darkest hour, however his well being (thanks partly to a lifelong smoking behavior) would by no means be the identical.
The queen stays a fan of vehicles right this moment
In 1947, the normally deferential Elizabeth as soon as once more fought to get her personal method. This time, she was decided to beat the objections of her household and the British authorities to marry Philip Mountbatten, a Greek-born, dashing younger officer within the Royal Navy, who Elizabeth had fallen for on the age of 13. That November, with Britain nonetheless in a post-war financial downturn leading to rationing, the couple married. A number of of their kids and grandchildren would observe of their footsteps by serving within the armed providers, together with Prince Charles, Prince Andrew, Prince William and Prince Harry, whose 10-year stint within the British Military included two excursions in Afghanistan.
And whereas the queen is greatest often known as a eager and passionate rider and breeder of horses, her teenage years within the ATS left their mark. She taught her kids how one can drive, and properly into her 90s can ceaselessly be seen behind the wheel of one of many many vehicles within the royal assortment — and he or she’s been recognized to leap on the probability to diagnose and restore defective engines and equipment, simply as she was skilled to do greater than 70 years in the past.