Throughout her 70-year reign and in the decades before, Her Majesty The Queen has lived through times of conflict, maintaining an enduring relationship with the armed forces and honouring those affected by war at home and across the world.
Marking the Platinum Jubilee this spring, IWM Duxford will present a rich programme that, for the first time in the museum’s history, explores the role of The Royal Family in conflict, tracing The Queen’s personal experience of war through poignant items and a large-scale projection of recently digitised film from IWM’s archive.
As Princess Elizabeth, The Queen’s first public duties were during the Second World War, which broke out when she was 13 years old. Upon joining the Auxiliary Territorial Service in 1945, she became the first woman in The Royal Family to enlist as a full-time member of the armed services. Since then, The Queen has supported those who serve and veterans of conflict in her role as Head of the Armed Forces, a post that continues a long royal military tradition.
New research into IWM’s photography archive demonstrates just how keenly The Queen’s role as monarch has been shaped by her wartime experiences. This relationship between crown and conflict will be explored through IWM’s collections, bringing human stories to the foreground and providing a unique lens through which to join the national moment.
The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee: Ready for take-off
In IWM Duxford’s AirSpace visitors can get up-close with some of the world’s most famous aircraft. A trail of objects in this hangar will tell the story of British and Commonwealth aviation during The Queen’s 70-year reign, a time marked by unprecedented social, political and technological change.
The year The Queen acceded the throne was the same year that the world’s first Comets entered service, slashing journey times for passenger aircraft. Visitors to IWM Duxford will be able to explore an example of this in a de Havilland Comet, which made the very first eastbound trans-Atlantic flight in 1958, and explore a new addition to the Duxford fleet – a BAe 146 aircraft that was used by the Royal Family to travel the world and one of the first jet aircraft in The Queen’s Flight.
Digitised IWM archives
Accompanying the trail at IWM Duxford, a large-scale projection of recently digitised film from IWM’s archive will provide a visual backdrop to the permanent displays of AirSpace.
Presented together for the first time, this footage offers glimpses into the official public duties of The Queen alongside more private moments in her relationship with the armed forces. With a running time of approximately ten minutes, this special display includes a colour sequence of The Queen travelling to her coronation in 1953, attended by British and Commonwealth armed forces, as well as footage of her as a young princess travelling to South Africa on HMS Vanguard in 1947 with her father King George VI, mother Queen Elizabeth, and sister Princess Margaret.
Memorial Tree Planting
As part of The Queen’s Green Canopy, a nation-wide tree planting initiative created to mark the Platinum Jubilee, two cherry trees have been planted at IWM Duxford. Chosen as a traditional form of remembrance for the fallen servicemen of the Second World War, the blooming of these cherry trees throughout the spring and summer months will act as a permanent reminder of the historic moment of the Platinum Jubilee.