The Queen marks Australian Air Force centenary at Runnymede

The Queen made a rare public outing yesterday to celebrate 100 years of the Australian Air Force.

Her Majesty travelled from Windsor Castle to Runnymede to visit the Commonwealth Air Forces Memorial to mark the centenary.

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The Commonwealth Air Forces Memorial is run by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It was officially opened by The Queen on the 17th October 1953, nearly two years into her reign; the memorial commemorates over 20,000 Commonwealth airmen and women who were killed carrying out operations in north and west Europe and who have no known grave. 1,300 of those people commentated are members of the Australian Air Force.

The Australian Airforce (RAAF) was founded in March 1921 and has taken part in campaigns in the Second World War, Korea, Malaya, Vietnam, East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq. More than 350,000 men and women have served in the RAAF since its formation, with more than 11,100 of those tragically dying in service.

The Queen, dressed brightly in lime and her Australian wattle brooch, and had a smile to match, as she arrived for the engagement – her first public engagement of 2021.

She was greeted by the High Commissioner for Australia George Brandis and also Claire Horton, director general of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The Queen at a service to mark the centenary of the Royal Australian Air Force at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Air Forces Memorial in Runnymede

“You’ve got a good day for it. It’s a very windy spot normally,” she told them before commenting on how long it had been since her last visit.

They made their way into the main courtyard, where the ceremony to mark the centenary was taking place. The ceremony began with a flypast performed by the famous Red Arrows, who used only white smoke due to their normal smoke pods being in for maintenance.

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After that, prayers were said for all RAAF men and women who have lost their lives in service to Australia.

A wreath was laid on behalf of The Queen by her Equerry Major Tom White. The wreath featured a message from Her Majesty, which read: “IN MEMORY OF THE GLORIOUS DEAD. ELIZABETH R.”

The order of service for the ceremony featured a foreword by The Queen in which she said: “As one of the oldest Air Forces in the world, it is fitting to pay tribute to the efficiency, skill and sacrifice of the men and women who have served in its ranks, in Australia and overseas, during the past one hundred years.”

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During the visit, The Queen also signed the visitors’ book as well as viewing the names of those from the RAAF commemorated at the memorial. Her Majesty also got the chance to speak to some members of the RAAF.

The RAAF have an active personnel exchange programme, which allows their personnel to work with the RAF in Britain. The Monarch told a member of personnel, who is currently seconded an an air traffic controller to a Typhoon unit, , “It’s rather bad luck to have arrived in lockdown isn’t it?”

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The Queen also took the time to have a joke with the RAAF member on his job. “Are they being sent off to chase the Russians?” she asked.

“That’s correct ma’am, it’s a lot of fun for us!”. The Queen hummed agreement in response.

Her Majesty was given something to look forward to when she was told that she would receive a gift of two RAAF dog jackets for her new corgis, which would be delivered to her when they have been made. “That’s very kind” she told them. “I look forward to it.”

And we look forward to seeing The Queen out and about once more in the near future!

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