Saturday, 23 April 2016

War and the Princess

Back in the Second World War, Princess Elizabeth - Elizabeth Windsor, was service number 230873, for she had volunteered as a subaltern in the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service, training as a driver and a mechanic. Eventually, she drove military trucks in support roles in England.

In 1942, at age 16, Elizabeth registered with the Labour Exchange –the British employment agency at the time – and was extremely keen to join a division of the women’s armed forces. Her father was reluctant to let her do so, but eventually relented. Once in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, Elizabeth learned how to change a wheel, deconstruct and rebuild engines, and drive ambulances and other vehicles.

Collier's Magazine says that "One of her major joys was to get dirt under her nails and grease stains in her hands, and display these signs of labour to her friends"

This poem, written to commemorate her 90th birthday, looks back on that period in history, when the world was at war, and a great and heroic generation, ordinary men and women, supported the war effort, and she was clearly determined to be part of that, a Royalty that was prepared to "roll up its sleeves" and get "stuck in". She remains, a thread connecting us to that time, when people could see what really mattered, and fought for freedom. It is also why the poem sets the backdrop against which she did her bit for the war effort.

All this is seventy five odd years in the past. A new generation now holds the stage. The Queen’s generation has already slipped into the shadows of this pageant we call “life”, but she remains, a firm link to those days of that war to rescue freedom, and save those values which we know so often treat too lightly.

War and the Princess

The bombs are falling, falling, down:
The Blitz descends on London Town;
And night time full of heavy roar,
Bombers fly overhead once more;
And below the city, underground,
People shelter, hear that sound;
Hitler strikes with power and might:
The buildings blazing burn all night;
The World at War, and all must pray,
No more death will come this way;
Fire fighters out, the hiss of steam,
As water strikes the burning beam;
In the skies, the RAF fights back,
And courage, airmen do not lack;
Spitfires, Battle of Britain fight,
Against the many, an air force slight;
And at sea, the navy guards the seas,
The U-Boats swarm like dread disease;
The convoy is protected, lifeline ships,
Across stormy Atlantic making trips;
And soldiers train, prepare to fight,
Against all the Third Reich’s might;
Driving military trucks, doing her bit,
Elizabeth did not simply wait and sit;
Trained as driver and mechanic too,
Drove military trucks, part of the crew;
A Women’s Auxiliary, a volunteer,
To help her country loved so dear;
Now she celebrates her ninety years,
A lifetime away from wartime fears;
And yet she was there, and not aloof:
Embodiment of the crown, living proof,
Of a princess who served, and became
The Queen, and remains the same;
Through the war, and after in peace:
She carries on duty, does not cease:
In praise of the princess, of long ago,
Became the Queen we love and know.

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