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RA QM/PRIV/CC12/135

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RA QM/PRIV/CC12/135 (view the document)

The opening years of the Second World War were a period of great threat to Britain, which was shared by both sovereign and people.

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth remained in London, returning to Windsor Castle only in the evenings, and visited bomb damaged areas in the capital and elsewhere.

They were present in Buckingham Palace on occasions when the building was bombed – nine times over the course of the war – as vividly described in this letter from Queen Elizabeth to Queen Mary, dated 13 September 1940.

Transcription

September 13th 1940

My Darling Mama

I hardly know how to begin to tell you of the horrible attack on Buckingham Palace this morning.

Bertie & I arrived there at about ¼ to 11, and he & I went up to our poor windowless rooms to collect a few odds and ends – I must tell you that there was a “Red” warning on, and I went into the little room opposite B’s room, to see if he was coming down to the shelter – He asked me to take an eyelash out of his eye, and while I was battling with this task, Alec came into the room with a batch of papers in his hand. At this moment we heard the unmistakable whirr-whirr of a german plane – We said “ah a german”, and before anything else could be said, there was the noise of aircraft diving at great speed, and then the scream of a bomb – It all happened so quickly, that we had only time to look foolishly at each other, when the scream hurtled past us, and exploded with a tremendous crash in the quadrangle –

I saw a great column of smoke & earth thrown up into the air, and then we all ducked like lightning into the corridor – There was another tremendous explosion, and we & our 2 pages who were outside the door, remained for a moment or two in the corridor away from the staircase, in case of flying glass. It is curious how one’s instinct works at those moments of great danger, as quite without thinking, the urge was to get away from the windows. Everybody remained wonderfully calm, and we went down to the shelter – I went along to see if the housemaids were alright, and found them busy in their various shelters – Then came a cry for “bandages”, and the first aid party, who had been training for over a year, rose magnificently to the occasion, and treated the 3 poor casualties calmly and correctly –

They, poor men, were working below the Chapel, and how they survived I don’t know – Their whole workshop was a shambles, for the bomb had gone bang through the floor above them. My knees trembled a little bit for a minute or two after the explosions! But we both feel quite well today, tho’ just a bit tired. I was so pleased with the behaviour of our servants. They were really magnificent. I went along to the kitchen which, as you will remember has a glass roof. I found the chef bustling about, and when I asked him if he was alright, he replied cheerfully that there had been un petit quelque chose dans le coin, un petit bruit, with a broad smile – The petit quelque chose was the bomb on the Chapel just next door! He was perfectly unmoved, and took the opportunity to tell me of his unshakable conviction that France will rise again!...

Darling mama, I do hope that you will let me come & stay a day or two later – It is so sad being parted, as this War has parted famillies.

With my love, and prayers for your safety, ever darling Mama your loving daughter in law

Elizabeth

P.S. Dear old B.P is still standing, and that is the main thing.