London Lantern

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The Queen Meets Her Wartime Work Colleagues

26/10/2003, By Richard, 7th Earl of Bradford

Reader Rating: 2.9 from 14457 votes


During the Second World War, in 1945, a young lady called Elisabeth Windsor joined the ATS and went on a Cadre Course, No1 MTTC, Camberley on 24 February 1945 at the age of 18; she was registered as Second Subaltern Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, No. 230873.

One slight difference between her and the other ladies was that every night she returned to Windsor Castle, to her parents King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. The young Princess learned map reading skills, vehicle-maintenance and basic mechanics, driving many different vehicles, and ended up by qualifying as a driver, before being promoted to Junior Commander.

On October the 14th she met up again with some of the other ladies - now most of the in their eighties - that had been on the course when she opened the Exhibition ‘Women and War’ at the Imperial War Museum in London.

The Queen At War

The Queen spoke of the part that women have played in the Armed Services over the years, and the role of the museum in recognising that through the exhibition.

"Throughout my reign I have watched with admiration how women in the three Services and many related organisations have taken on wider responsibilities and ever more demanding roles on land, on sea and in the air. This exhibition is a tribute to their spirit and to that vital contribution made by women in the past, present and, I am certain, in the challenging future which lies ahead."

‘Women and War’ is a unique, major international loan exhibition, the first of its kind to chronicle the history of women and war from the First World War to the present day.

An introductory section illustrates women’s involvement in conflict from antiquity onwards and includes a portrait of Joan of Arc by Rubens; Catherine the Great’s military-inspired crinoline; a Nightingale nurse’s sash; and stories of women who fought disguised as men.

Reunion

The First World War led to unprecedented numbers of women working in hospitals, offices, factories, on the land, in transport and in the fledgling women’s services. Exhibits include medals awarded to the Women of Pervyse who operated a first aid post on the Western Front; part of Mata Hari’s recently discovered stage costume; a wreath from nurse Edith Cavell’s coffin; a camisole worn by a survivor of the torpedoing of the Lusitania; the pistol carried by Sergeant-Major Flora Sandes of the Serbian Army; and wedding dresses worn by Lindsay Forde in 1915 and 1924 (she was to be widowed in both world wars).

The contribution of women to the war effort in the Second World War at home and overseas is extensively covered. There are mementoes of the intrepid Russian female night fighter pilots known as the ‘Night Vixens’ and of the ace sniper Lyudmilla Pavlichenko.

The world of secret operations is represented by Violette Szabo’s George Cross; Noor Inayat Khan’s pistol; and Yvonne Cormeau’s blood-stained briefcase. Uniforms from the main women’s services and voluntary organizations are on view, along with civilian costumes adapted for wartime conditions ranging from a gas-proof siren suit to a make-do-and-mend cape fashioned from a blanket.

Of special note are Marlene Dietrich’s USO uniform; Amy Johnson’s Air Transport Auxiliary tunic (displayed with the telegram informing her parents that she had been lost on active service); Lee Miller’s jeep coat and camera; the dress worn by an Australian Army nurse who died in a Japanese POW camp; and a wedding dress worn by a Belsen survivor in 1945 when she married one of the British soldiers who had liberated the camp.

The Post-War period covers women’s role in the armed services, peace-keeping operations, peace protests and humanitarian activity from Korea to Iraq.

Key exhibits include a dress worn by a Polish refugee who survived the Warsaw Ghetto; Kate Adie’s helmet and kitbag from the Gulf War; the Royal Marines uniform of Captain Pip Tattersall, the first woman to wear the coveted Commando Green Beret; Goldie Hawn’s costume from Private Benjamin; contemporary fashion inspired by camouflage; and body armour worn by Princess Diana in Angola when promoting the anti-land mines campaign.

The Exhibition opened on 15th October 2003 and continues until 18th April 2004, details can be found on the Imperial War Museum website.

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Re: The Queen Meets Her Wartime Work Colleagues

By Londoner95 03/11/2003, (Rating: 2.9 from 13613 votes)

This is a wonderful museum and should not be missed, even if you are not "into military history." But, it is an all day excursion if you not merely a "browser." I spent nearly 4 hours there, and I'd only covered the first TWO floors! If you are really trying to get a grasp of the British of war, then plan on going on a rainy day (and no, it doesn't always rain in England, really!) and just melting into the wonderful displays, sights sounds and SMELLS! Yes, this is an all sensory experience.

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