On February 6, 2022, Her Majesty The Queen became the first British monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years of service to the people of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.

Throughout her time as the longest reigning monarch in British history and in the decades before, Queen Elizabeth II maintained an enduring relationship with the armed forces, regularly visiting military personnel and bases including Duxford, as a Queen, a Princess and a soldier.

Princess Elizabeth’s first public duties were during World War II, which broke out when she was 13 years old. At the age of 19, Princess Elizabeth joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), becoming the first woman in The Royal Family to enlist as a full-time member of the armed services. On the insistence of her father King George VI, Elizabeth wasn’t given a special rank and started her military career as a second subaltern (equivalent to a junior officer). She trained as a driver and mechanic, and was eventually promoted to junior commander. Her younger sister Princess Margaret went on to become a Girl Guide and join the Sea Rangers.

The King and Princess Margaret watching Princess Elizabeth at work on a car engine, 1945

As the heir presumptive, part of Princess Elizabeth’s public duties during World War II included visits to American bases like Duxford and Alconbury. At Thurleigh, she christened a B-17 Flying Fortress “Rose of York” named in her honor.

Both images: Princess Elizabeth and Colonel Claude Putnam, Commanding Officer of the 306th Bomb Group, at the christening of the “Rose of York” on July 6, 1944

Her Majesty’s public efforts—including boosting morale as a teenager with radio announcements from Windsor Castle, fulfilling her duties as part of the ATS, and since then in her role as Head of the Armed Forces, a post that continues a long royal military tradition—are examples of The Queen’s extraordinary commitment to military service. The American Air Museum was proud to be a part of this legacy 25 years ago, when The Queen graciously honored the special friendship that binds the United States and Britain by opening the American Air Museum in August 1997.

Queen Elizabeth II at the opening of the American Air Museum, August 1, 1997
Queen Elizabeth, King George VI and Princess Elizabeth during a visit to the 305th Bomb Group
Captain Louise C. Bain shakes hands with King George IV. At left – Princess Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth and Lieutenant General James Doolittle
King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Elizabeth and Major General James Doolittle meet airman Lloyd C. Mason of the 379th Bomb Group

Celebrations of the Queen’s unprecedented tenure are culminating in a four-day UK Bank Holiday weekend starting Thursday, June 2, and lasting through Sunday, June 5. Music, parades and festive ceremonies are planned in the Queen’s honor.

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