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Balestra School Workshops Blog

We get a letter from the Queen!

April 21st, 2012 · No Comments · Building our workshops, For pupils, For teachers

At Balestra living history we are always adding items and information to our workshops to make them more interesting and in this year of the Queen’s jubilee we thought it would be a good idea to put in some information about her role during the war into our WW2 school workshop. We also thought it would be a good idea to send a letter to Buckingham Palace to ask Her Majesty if she could provide us with any more information about her wartime role, not realising that she would take a personal interest in what we were doing!

But before we tell you about that, here is some background information about the Queen’s role in WW2. At this time in her life she was Princess Elizabeth, as her father, George VI was still King. Through the early part of the second world war she did a lot of good work travelling around and visiting the places in the country that had been affected by the war, such as bombed cities and towns in order to boost morale. However, in February 1945 she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service (called the ATS), with the service number of 230873 in the rank of honorary Second Subaltern.

The role of the ATS was quite varied during wartime but in general the force was employed in a supporting role for the troop operations that were occurring at the time, with jobs such as drivers, cooks, clerks and storekeepers. Like a lot of wartime roles it wasn’t always an easy job being in the ATS but it was an essential part of the forces during the war effort, with 65,000 members by 1941.

During Her Majesty’s service she trained as a driver and mechanic, drove a military truck, and was promoted to the rank of honorary Junior Commander, all the while staying in the same barracks and learning the same things about how to repair cars as the other trainees. She even had to clean the barracks up for a visit from her Father King George VI, when he played a joke on her by tampering with a car she was supposed to be fixing!

So now here is the part about our letter. We wrote a letter to the Queen politely asking for some more details about her role in the ATS that we could put into our workshops, though we knew that because she was busy travelling the country in her Diamond Jubilee year we would probably just get a standard reply from Buckhingam Palace with a leaflet or two. But then, just a week later we received a packed envelope with the markings ‘ER’ on it with a Buckingham Palace postmark! The contents are shown in this picture here (click it for a larger view):

As you can see, inside were several leaflets about the Queen’s early life, the role of the Royal Family in the war, information sheets about her life in the ATS, and also a letter, and all on paper with the heading “Windsor Castle”!

This is what the letter said:

Dear Mr Birchall,
The Queen wishes me to write and thank you for your letter.

Her Majesty was interested to hear about the workshops you hold in the North West of England, when you teach Work War 2 history workshops to primary school children.

Although unable to reply to you personally, The Queen greatly appreciated your kind thought for her, and I enclose some information leaflets which you may like to have.

I am to thank you very much once again for writing as you did.

Yours sincerely,
Philippa De Ross, lady-in-Waiting

.. and here is a close up picture of it (click to enlarge)..

Of course, the best part for us was the line “Her Majesty was interested to hear about the workshops you hold..” which means that the Queen has paid personal attention to all the good work from the pupils at the schools we visit, so well done to you all for being involved in something so special!

Teachers, if you would like a FREE writing lesson pack to accompany this article, including printable scans of one the leaflets we were sent and a full lesson plan and writing frames, head over to this link from our website here: WW2 lesson plans

Alternatively, more details of the ATS can be found here on the ‘ATS remembered’ website.

Oh, and one last thing – if you see the Queen’s Rolls Royce car break down in one of her official visits, give yourself a little smile and remember that it is highly likely that she could get out, roll up her sleeves and fix it if she wanted to, so long as there are no crafty Kings there to play any tricks on her!

Thanks for reading and TTFN,

Mr B

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