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Why Queen Elizabeth II was marked by WWII

June 6, 2014
Associated Press

PARIS (AP) — Though Queen Elizabeth II has cut back on making foreign trips, the 88-year-old British monarch traveled to France for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy. And it's little wonder: she lived and lost through World War II and it marked her life more than many.

On a three-day state visit to France, she and her husband Prince Philip on Friday commemorated the landings at Sword Beach in Normandy, after having spent Thursday in Paris attending a British Embassy garden party, and laying a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe.

Here are some reasons why World War II marked Queen Elizabeth so much:

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HER PARENTS WERE NEARLY KILLED

Her father, King George VI and the Queen Mother, narrowly escaped being killed by a German air raid when Elizabeth was a teenager.

A Luftwaffe plane flew straight down the Mall in September 1940 and dropped bombs on the Buckingham Palace grounds that exploded in great columns of smoke and caused the queen's parents to leap for their lives.

The Queen Mother, whose knees knocked for two minutes, wrote to her mother-in-law the same day evoking the "unmistakable whirr-whirr of a German plane" and then the "scream of a bomb," according to official biographer William Shawcross, who published the letter.

Several servants were injured and the palace chapel was hit.

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HER UNCLE WAS KILLED

Prince George, Duke of Kent — King George VI's younger brother — died in a military plane crash on a mission to Iceland in 1942.

The death of Elizabeth's 39-year-old uncle shook the royal family, its only casualty during World War II. It also marked the first death in active service of a British royal in about 500 years. The Duchess of Kent had just given birth to their third child only six weeks earlier.

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THE QUEEN SERVED IN WAR

The queen, though young, was keen to do her part in the war — and planned to join the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) when she came of age.

In February 1945, at 19, the then-princess became honorary Second Subaltern with the service number of 230873.

She trained as a driver and mechanic, sleeping at home rather than in the barracks with the other recruits — and was promoted to honorary Junior Commander five months later.

During these D-Day 70th commemorations she will be among only a small number of visiting heads of state — including the Greek and Italian presidents — to have lived and served in the war.

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THE WAR RAVAGED HER FRAIL FATHER

The stress of World War II ravaged her father George VI and took huge tolls on the king's health.

He died seven years after the end of the war at age 56, of fatigue and the subsequent development of lung cancer.

Princess Elizabeth, the heiress presumptive, took on more royal duties as her father's health deteriorated and she became queen at age 25.

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Thomas Adamson can be followed at http://Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP

 
 

 

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