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The Home Front
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The Royal Family during the War
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The Royal Family during the War
Princess Elizabeth in ATS uniform in 1945. She trained as a mechanic to repair military vehicles.

When the Second world War broke out on 3 September , 1939 King George 5th and Queen Elizabeth sent their daughters, Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth 2nd) and Princess Margaret to live at Windsor Castle, (only 30 miles from London), which was thought to be safer than Buckingham Palace. They lived there until the end of the war in 1945.The King and Queen remained at Buckingham Palace, visiting them at the weekend. All valuables in Buckingham Palace were removed or protected. The horses and carriages from The Royal Mews were moved to Windsor, where the horses were put to work on the farm.

The Blitz

Duty during the war for the King and Queen meant engagements around the country related to the war effort. These included visits to military units, civil defence workers, to factories, to farms and to hospitals. When the Blitz started the King and Queen visited bomb struck cities as soon as possible after the attacks. Very often this was in London especially in the East End. Buckingham Palace itself suffered nine direct hits. But this had the opposite effect to that which the Germans had intended. Britain now felt that their Royal Family shared their suffering and were united with the people.

Many people thought it too dangerous for the King and Queen to remain in London, but Queen Elizabeth said "the Princesses will not leave us, I cannot leave the King and the King will never leave." They worked from Buckingham Palace during the week, visiting Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret at Windsor Castle at the weekends.

As the Nazis advanced through Europe, Britain offered refuge to European heads of state. These included King Haakon of Norway, King Peter of Yugoslavia and Queen Wilhemina of the Netherlands.

The George Cross

As civilians came increasingly more involved in the war on the home front especially during the Blitz, the King thought it was important to introduce an award to honour bravery in non-military conduct. This was the George Cross, the highest civilian award for bravery. The King tried to awarded as many of these medals as he could personally. Throughout the war there was an Investiture every week at Buckingham Palace.

Princess Elizabeth

In 1942 Princess Elizabeth (aged 16) registered at a labour exchange like all other girls her age. She wanted to volunteer as a nurse in bombed-out areas of London, but the King thought it was too dangerous. In 1945, (aged 18) she was allowed to join the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service). She learned to drive and repair heavy vehicles. Soon after she finished her training, the war ended. In 1944 Princess Elizabeth had also become a Councillor of State which allowed her to sign State documents for her father when he was visiting British forces overseas (He visited Normandy after D-Day and Italy in 1944).

The Duke of Edinburgh

The Duke of Edinburgh, a friend and future husband of Princess Elizabeth, was as Philip Mountbatten already in the Royal Navy when war broke out. He served throughout the war on a series of ships in the East Indies, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific where he was present in Tokyo Bay for the final Japanese surrender.

V.E. Day

On 8 May 1945 V.E. Day, the King, the Queen, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret and former Prime Minister Winston Churchill appeared on the balcony at Buckingham Palace to greet the cheering crowds. In the evening, the Princesses, escorted by police officers were allowed to mingle in the crowds celebrating the end of the war.
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Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum.
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This day in history
Today: 10 December 2018
Then: 10 December 1948

The 51 member states of the United Nations sign the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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