Unless you have been under a rock for the past 24 hours, we have witnessed the end of the second Elizabethan age as Queen Elizabeth II died peacefully at Balmoral, Scotland, aged 96. Born early in one century and laid to rest well into another, she was crowned the same year Edmund Hillary ascended Mount Everest and an unsteady truce neared in the Korean War. Since then, she saw 14 U.S. Presidents, met with 15 Prime Ministers (Churchill was in office when she was coronated!), and saw the last leader of the Soviet Union buried.
I’m not here to eulogize, and indeed around the world lots of leftists and know-nothings, who bemoan everything British– without noting the ascendance of guys like Idi Amin/Yoweri Museveni, Robert Mugambe, and Yahya Jammeh to fill the vacuum the old Empire left behind– are celebrating her passing like a bunch of ghouls.
What I am going to do is point out her WWII military service, and the fact that she served at least 80 years continuously in the military.
Per the IWM:
During the Second World War, King George VI was reluctant to let his daughter – and heir – join any of the organisations that women could serve in during the war. However, in February 1945, Princess Elizabeth was allowed to join the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor, as she was known, was part of Number 1 ‘Beaufront’ Company and trained as a mechanic and truck driver in Surrey. Her classes included practical maintenance, mechanics theory and map reading. She told a friend, “I never worked so hard in my life. But I enjoyed it very much.” The princess graduated as a fully qualified driver, but the war ended before she was able to make practical use of her new skills
She remained a Junior Commander, Women’s Royal Army Corps after the war, rising to Captain by 1952 with semi-regular periods of service.
Like all monarchs and members of the Windsor family, she kept up her military obligations, and for the past 70 years, from 6 February 1952 through 8 September 2022, was Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces. As such, it is possible she inspected more troops than any leader in history.
On Elizabeth’s sixteenth birthday, 21 April 1942, she was appointed Colonel of the Regiment of the Grenadier Guards and promptly inspected them in her first solo appearance. It was a responsibility she took seriously, after all, a war was on and some of the men were shipping out to North Africa shortly.
She would inspect “her” Grenadiers as well as the Paras just prior to D-Day.
Princess Elizabeth inspecting the 2nd (Armoured) Battalion Grenadier Guards, 5th Guards Armoured Brigade, Guards Armoured Division, at Hove in East Sussex, England prior to DDay – May 1944. IWM – Malindine E G (Captain) Photographer. © IWM H 38532
Princess Elizabeth visits British Airborne Troops prior to DDay May 1944 IWM H 38603
Ultimatley, she was named Colonel-in-Chief of the: Royal Australian Engineers, Royal Australian Infantry Corps, Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps, Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps, le Régiment de la Chaudière, 48th Highlanders of Canada, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise’s), Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery, Governor General’s Horse Guards, King’s Own Calgary Regiment, Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers, Royal 22e Régiment, Governor General’s Foot Guards, Canadian Grenadier Guards, Carleton and York Regiment, Canadian Guards, Royal New Brunswick Regiment, Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps, Calgary Highlanders, Wellington Regiment, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment, New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps, The Life Guards, Royal Horse Guards, Coldstream Guards, Scots Guards, Irish Guards, Welsh Guards, Royal Regiment of Artillery, Corps of Royal Engineers, Royal Tank Regiment, Malawi Rifles, Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons), Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, Corps of Royal Military Police, Queen’s Gurkha Engineers,Queen’s Royal Lancers, Royal Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry, Royal Welsh, Royal Regiment of Scotland, Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment.
As well as the Air-Commodore-in-Chief of the Territorial Air Force of New Zealand, Royal Auxiliary Air Force, Royal Air Force Regiment, Royal Observer Corps; Captain-General of the Honourable Artillery Company, Commandant-in-Chief of the Royal Air Force College, Countess of Ranfurly’s Own Auckland Regiment, et.al…
She was tied to the Forces in both public and private in every way, and it could be argued her primary job since the age of 16 had been that of a service member.
Special ties to the Fleet
Elizabeth was closely associated with the Royal Navy. After all, she was the daughter, wife, and mother of naval officers.
She was also a battleship sailor, having embarked on HMS Vanguard in 1947 for the Royal Cruise to Africa. She was familiar with the Royal Navy’s final (and largest) dreadnought, having christened her in 1944 while still Princess Elizabeth– the first time her standard was broken out on an RN vessel.
She also became possibly the only Queen in history with a Shellback certificate, as she took part in the traditional festivities upon Crossing the Line.
Elizabeth participated in the traditional line-crossing ceremony and was initiated into the Kingdom of Neptune. Elizabeth was a good sport but was excused from a few of the harsher hazings meted out to Pollywogs
She even got in some target practice from Vanguard’s decks in 1947 and was reportedly a good shot. Of note, while I have seen several images of her with a rifle, I have never seen her use eye or ear protection– and tough old bird indeed.
The 1953 Spithead Review, while smaller than some that came before, was the largest gathering of British warships that has not been surpassed since– and likely never will. Of note, Vanguard would grace the cover of the official commemorative as flagship.
The 1953 Spithead Coronation Review.
She also sponsored five other warships and submarines including the new carrier that holds her name, HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), the largest British warship ever built, and attended her christening in 2014. A bottle of fine Scotch from the 240-year-old Bowmore Distillery was broken across the carrier’s bow via an actuator that the Queen controlled via a push button.
Now, across the corners of the Commonwealth, there will be celebrations of her passing– heck, Biden has ordered all federal ensigns half-masted. The most notable, besides the looming pageantry of her state funeral, will be “Death Gun” 96-gun salutes fired from Cyprus to Sydney.
As noted by the New Zealand Army:
𝗗𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗵 𝗚𝘂𝗻 𝗦𝗮𝗹𝘂𝘁𝗲 𝗺𝗮𝗿𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗽𝗮𝘀𝘀𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗼𝗳 𝗛𝗲𝗿 𝗠𝗮𝗷𝗲𝘀𝘁𝘆 𝗤𝘂𝗲𝗲𝗻 𝗘𝗹𝗶𝘇𝗮𝗯𝗲𝘁𝗵 𝗜𝗜, 𝗪𝗲𝗹𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗴𝘁𝗼𝗻 𝗪𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗳𝗿𝗼𝗻𝘁, 𝟵 𝗦𝗲𝗽𝘁𝗲𝗺𝗯𝗲𝗿 𝗮𝘁 𝟲.𝟬𝟬𝗽𝗺
We will fire a Death Gun Salute marking the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the Wellington waterfront this evening.
16 Field Regiment will fire 96 rounds – one round for every year of Her Majesty’s life. The Death Gun Salute will commence at 6pm. The salute is expected to last at least 16 minutes.
Given the length of time the gun salute will take to conduct, it is recommended that hearing protection is worn by those planning to attend.