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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 December, 2004, 14:26 GMT
Queen sends message to UK troops
The Queen
The Queen's traditional message will be aired at 1500 GMT
The Queen has sent a special Christmas message of support to British troops stationed in Iraq.

It is believed to be the first time in the Queen's 52-year reign that such a recorded radio message has been made.

Later on Christmas morning she joined other members of the Royal Family for the traditional Christmas church service at Sandringham.

And at 1500 GMT, the Queen's Speech will focus on the theme of "tolerance and respect in a changing world".

Festive message

The Queen's message to troops was broadcast during Christmas Day breakfast shows on the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS).

Buckingham Palace said the radio recording would send a message of support and gratitude to troops and their families.

I am proud of the way you have risen to the challenges with typical professionalism
The Queen

It was heard not only in Iraq, but also by UK forces in Iraq and Brunei as well as British garrisons in Germany.

Those stationed in the UK were able to tune in with their families.

"Very many of you listening today will be separated from your families this Christmas, which is hard for both you and those who are left at home," she said.

"It has been a very demanding year. I am proud of the way you have risen to the challenges with typical professionalism.

"Wherever you are I would like to express my gratitude for your service this year and I send each and every one of you my good wishes for Christmas and the New Year."

She said peace-keeping and humanitarian missions were now as much a part of their duty as combat operations.

Queen with Father Christmas
The Queen's traditional message will be aired at 1500 GMT
The Queen also praised the "spirit, good humour, courage and commitment" of troops in the most "arduous conditions."

Church parade

Senior members of the Royal Family later attended the traditional festive royal church parade at Sandringham.

The Queen, wearing an aubergine-coloured coat with a matching hat, arrived by car with the Countess of Wessex.

But the countess's 13-month-old daughter, who is also the youngest Royal, was left at home.

Most members of the royal family, including the Duke of Edinburgh, walked to church from nearby Sandringham House.

Prince William, 22, and his brother Prince Harry, 20, attended along with their cousins, Zara Phillips, 23, Peter Phillips, 27, Princess Beatrice, 16, Princess Eugenie, 14, Viscount Linley and Lady Sarah Chatto.

This year's Queen's Speech was recorded in the Yellow Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace.

It will be broadcast on television and radio in the UK at 1500 GMT on Christmas Day and will also be aired throughout the Commonwealth.

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