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  • In 1945, Life magazine published an article about Princess Elizabeth.

  • It reported that King George VI had ruled, that “[Elizabeth’s] training as a princess

  • outweighed the nation’s increasing manpower problems and thatBettsshould not join

  • any of the women’s auxiliaries, nor work in a factory”.

  • But the King would not get his way.

  • In April 1944, the young Princess had turned 18.

  • Her teenage years had been against the backdrop of the Second World War.

  • Elizabeth was determined todo her bitfor the war effort, as so many of her peers

  • were.

  • Within a year of turning 18, Elizabeth would sign up for service.

  • It was an unprecedented decisionthis would make her the first woman in the Royal

  • Family to become a full-time member of the armed services.

  • And it was a decision that would shape her life and reign.

  • At the outset of the war, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth decided that they would not

  • be seen to be hiding away from the war.

  • They wanted to be visible for the people of Britain who were working and fighting for

  • the war effort.

  • In September 1940, five high explosive bombs were dropped on Buckingham Palace.

  • Rather than move away from the danger, the King and Queen decided to remain at Buckingham

  • Palace in solidarity with those living through the Blitz.

  • The Queen is reported to have said: 'I am glad we have been bombed.

  • Now we can look the East End in the eye.'

  • The King and Queen made many visits to areas that had bombed during the Blitz, as well

  • as to serving personnel, to munitions factories, to RAF bases and Royal Naval ships, and to

  • troops training for combat.

  • They wanted to keep people’s spirits up during the war years and took on the role

  • of boosting morale with fervour.

  • The King’s sister, Princess Maryknown as the Princess Royal, was also involved in

  • the war effort.

  • She had been a nurse during the First World War and had started a fund to buy gifts for

  • soldiers at Christmas and now in the Second World War she continued her supportshe

  • was the Controller Commandant of the women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service and she travelled

  • around the country visiting its unitsshe also worked with other wartime services and

  • charities.

  • Princess Elizabeth was just 13 years old when war broke out, and her younger sister Princess

  • Margaret was 9.

  • Princess Elizabeth had a fairly sheltered childhood prior to

  • the warshe didn’t attend school with other children but was instead educated at

  • home with her sister by a governess.

  • When war broke out, Elizabeth and Margaret were evacuated to Windsor Castle as it was

  • felt to be safer than Buckingham Palace in London.

  • And there they were kept safe from the bombing and also had an allotment as part of the national

  • Dig for Victorycampaign.

  • She was naturally very responsible and dutiful and very much took notice of what was happening

  • and wanted to play her part.

  • She saw the work her parents were doing to boost people’s morale and she learned from

  • that the importance of duty during times of national crisis.

  • Princess Elizabeth carried out her first public duties during the war.

  • On the morning of her sixteenth birthday, Princess Elizabeth undertook her first inspection

  • of a military regiment during a parade at Windsor Castle.

  • She also took on some honorary roles when she was still a teenagershe became the

  • Colonel of the Grenadier Guards in 1942 and on the morning of her 16th birthday, she carried

  • out her first official public engagement when she inspected the Guards at Windsor Castle.

  • She also launched her first ship, HMS Vanguard, at Clydebank when she was aged 18.

  • And she even performed some of her father the King’s head of state duties while he

  • was in Italy in 1944.

  • Women had been volunteering for war work since the start of the war.

  • The conscription of unmarried women between ages 20 to 30 was introduced in Britain in

  • December 1941 – women could choose between working on the land or in war industry, or

  • joining one of the military auxiliary services.

  • Later, the age limits expanded and more women were mobilised.

  • Eventually Elizabeth got her way and enlisted in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, known

  • as the ATS, in February 1945, aged 18.

  • The ATS was an auxiliary service that women could join or be conscripted into during the

  • war.

  • Its members became women soldiers who carried out roles that would free up men for front

  • line duties.

  • The ATS was the largest of the women’s auxiliary services and, by June 1945, it had around

  • 200,000 members who were drawn from across the British Empire.

  • Women were not allowed combat roles so instead they served as telephonists, clerks, drivers,

  • postal workers, dispatch riders and ammunition inspectors.

  • Around 56,000 members of the ATS also served with anti-aircraft units, in which they tracked

  • enemy aircraft and aimed anti-aircraft gunsbut only men were allowed to fire them.

  • Princess Elizabeth enrolled on a driving and vehicle maintenance course.

  • Her classes included mechanics theory and map reading and she learned how to service,

  • maintain and drive heavy army vehicles at the ATS No. 1 Mechanical Transport Training

  • Centre.

  • The princess was treated the same as the rest of her company during their training and was

  • able to mix with young people from different backgrounds.

  • She enjoyed chatting with other women on her course over cups of tea during their breaks.

  • This was quite unusual for the time and there was great press interest in seeing the young

  • heir to the throne during her military training.

  • Photographers captured her dressed in overalls working on vehicle engines and changing tyres

  • and the press even named herPrincess Auto Mechanic’.

  • Throughout her training Elizabeth worked for seven hours a day, but didn’t stay in the

  • barracks on siteshe would return to Windsor Castle each evening.

  • After five months of training as a mechanic and military truck driver in Camberley the

  • future queen was promoted to the rank of honorary Junior Commander.

  • She took her duties very seriously and, although some people were excited by her presence,

  • it is reported that she was hard working and humble during the time she served in the ATS.

  • The King and Queen and Princess Margaret visited Princess Elizabeth during her time at the

  • training camp, and watched her in action.

  • The Princess commented that shenever knew there was quite so much

  • advance preparation [for a royal visit] ...I’ll know another time.”

  • The young princess

  • graduated as a fully qualified driver, but the war ended before she was able to make

  • practical use of her new skills.

  • To pass her final test, she made a solo journey in a heavy vehicle from Camberley in Surrey

  • into London.

  • Just a few months later heralded the end of the war in Europe.

  • On VE Day – 8 May 1945 – Princess Elizabeth joined her parents and sister on the balcony

  • of Buckingham Palace, along with the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, to greet the

  • huge, cheering crowds that had gathered there to celebrate the end of the war in Europe.

  • Later on that day, the young princess was allowed to leave the palace and mingle with

  • the crowds, anonymously.

  • She later spoke about this when she was Queen,  

  • saying it was one of the most  memorable days of her life.

  • She said: ‘We asked my parents if we could go out

  • and see for ourselves.

  • I remember we were terrified of being recognised … I remember lines of unknown people linking

  • arms and walking down Whitehall, all of us just swept along on a tide of happiness and

  • relief.’

  • Princess Elizabeth was naturally quite serious  and responsible even when she was young,  

  • and the war years really strengthened  that aspect of her personality  

  • and provided the foundation of her later  attitude towards duty when she became Queen.

  • Although the Second World War ended in 1945, restrictions in Britain continued and the

  • Royal Family followed suit.

  • Rationing did not end until 1954 and Princess Elizabeth even saved up ration coupons to

  • buy the material for her wedding dress in 1947.

  • Just seven years after the end of the war, Elizabeth became Queen.

  • This experience of coming of age during a war would play a pivotal role in shaping how

  • she reigned and who she is.

  • She learned from her father the importance of the monarch being visible and present during

  • times of national crisis.

  • She formed a relationship with Winston Churchill over these years, who would later be her first

  • Prime Minster when QueenShe learned from her father  

  • the importance of the monarch being visible  and present during times of national crisis.

In 1945, Life magazine published an article about Princess Elizabeth.

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B1 UK elizabeth princess war queen king training

18-year-old Queen Elizabeth served as an auto mechanic

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    BBC TSO posted on 2022/09/14
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