Queen visits air force memorial in first public visit since lockdown measures eased

  • Report from ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship

The Queen has made her first public visit of 2021 as lockdown restrictions in England eased. She’s taken part in a ceremony to mark the centenary of the Royal Australian Air Force at a memorial in Surrey. The Queen opened the memorial in 1953 - the year of her coronation. The RAAF was founded in 1921 - a few years after the RAF and its personnel served in World War II and conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, East Timor, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Asian area formerly known as Malaya.

11,191 men and women were killed in action in the RAAF’s 100 years of service. The Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede was opened by The Queen on October 17 1953 and commemorates more than 20,000 Commonwealth airmen and women who died in operations in north and west Europe, but have no known grave.

“It’s a very long time since I have been here”, The Queen said as she arrived on Wednesday.

During a conversation with one of the airmen at the event, she remarked on how they were helping UK aircraft which are “being sent off to chase the Russians.”

The RAAF airman replied: That’s correct ma’am. It’s a lot of fun for us”. The Queen responded with a careful, “hmmm”. The Monarch has been seen on video calls since Christmas, but this is the first time the 94-year-old has left Windsor Castle In fact, the coronavirus lockdown came up in a conversation with an RAAF airwoman who has been recently posted to the UK.

“Yes, it’s rather bad luck to have arrived in lockdown isn’t it... I hope in the next couple of years you’ll be able to travel a bit more”, the Queen said to her.

The Monarch stood to attention at the ceremony with George Brandis, the High Commissioner for Australia, as the Australian national anthem was played.

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