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The war years
Standing in the rubble of a bombed palace
The war years
Visiting the East End after VE day

The war years

During the Second World War the King and Queen, along with the Prime Minister Winston Churchill, became the symbols of the nation's resistance.

During the Blitz the Queen felt it was her duty to help boost the nationís morale. Alongside her husband, she made regular visits to the areas of the East End which had borne the brunt of the bombardment from German forces. Amid the ever-present danger of unexploded devices beneath the rubble, the visits helped to raise peoplesí spirits.

Buckingham Palace took nine direct hits from German bombers, the first raid involving a fairly narrow escape for the King and Queen as masonry and windows were destroyed close to them.

Suffering in the East End

The attacks had the effect of making the Queen feel closer to her people and the terrible times they were enduring. She declared that now the palace had been bombed too, she could "look the East End in the face".

During the war the Queen refused to evacuate to Canada and even learned to use a revolver in case the enemy tried to kidnap her.

In her later years the Queen Mother would often make return visits to the East End and she made it the centrepiece of her ninetieth birthday celebrations.

Looking back on the war years, eastender Lilly Lunn said: "She was wonderful, we went through a lot round here during the War, but whenever we saw Royalty it uplifted us. She never ran away."

Admiration of the country

For the 50th anniversary of VE day in 1995, the Queen Mother joined hundreds of thousands of others who gathered to pay tribute to those who fought for peace in Europe. The 94-year-old launched the commemorations in Hyde Park and met a group of veterans who had been honoured for their bravery during the war.

Wartime singer Vera Lynn also performed some of her best-known hits on an open-air stage. But the moment that encapsulated the mood of the commemorations as a whole, came when the Queen Mother stepped on to the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

The vast crowds that had converged on the palace cheered just as they had on VE Day many years before. They paid tribute to the woman who, as Queen, had commanded the admiration of a country at war.

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