The Royal Auxiliary Air Force enjoyed a long and much-valued association with Her Majesty beginning in June 1951 when, as The Princess Elizabeth, she became the the Honorary Air Commodore of 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron. At the same time she presented the Squadron with the Esher Trophy. She visited the Squadron on a number of occasions over the years, often accompanied by her husband, His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh. Her Majesty remained the Squadron’s Honorary Air Commodore until her death.
In 1952, following the death of her father, King George VI, Her Majesty took over his mantle as the Force’s Air Commodore-in-Chief – an appointment she held throughout her reign.
On June 1953 Force personnel participated in Her Majesty’s Coronation.
On 1 July 1953, Force personnel and aircraft participated in Her Majesty’s Royal Air Force Coronation Review held at Royal Air Force Benson.
On 30 June 1955, Her Majesty presented 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron with ‘The Standard’ at the Palace of Holyrood House.
When the Force’s Flying Squadrons were disbanded in 1957, Her Majesty invited all of the Commanding Officers to Buckingham Palace where she gave them this note: “I wish as Air Commodore-in-Chief to thank Officers, Airmen and Airwomen of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force for all that they have given to the service of the country by their enthusiasm, their spirit and their devotion in peace and war. It is a sad day when it is necessary to tell so many that it is no longer possible to use their services, on the duties they have assumed so willingly. I wish them to know that they can look back with pride and satisfaction to service well done.
In 1962, Her Majesty received Group Captain The Right Honorable Sir Peter Vanneck at a private audience at Buckingham Palace on the occasion of his appointment as the Inspector of the Force. He was again received by her Majesty for a private audience in 1973 when he relinquished the appointment. Succeeding Inspectors, Group Captains Robbie Robins, Peter Harris, Mike Tinley, Richard Mighall, Bob Kemp, and Gary Bunkell were afforded the same honour of private audiences with Her Majesty.
On 26 October 1974, Her Majesty and The Queen Mother attended a civic reception at The Guildhall to mark the 50th anniversary of the Force.
On 12 June 1989, Her Majesty presented the Force with its first Sovereign’s Colour at Royal Air Force Benson.
In 1999, Her Majesty approved the award of the Queen’s Volunteer Reserves Medal to Reserve Forces of which two could be awarded annually to the Royal Auxiliary Air Force.
In 2002, the year of Her Majesty The Queen’s Golden Jubilee, the Force presented her with a cast bronze Golden Eagle at Sandringham.
To mark its 80th anniversary in 2004, the Force hosted her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh at a Reception in the Royal Air Force Club.
On 18 July 2010, Her Majesty presented the Force with a replacement Sovereign’s Colour at Royal Air Force Marham.
Throughout Her Majesty’s reign, members of the Force were invited to Royal Garden Parties which she hosted at both Buckingham Palace and The Palace of Holyrood House. Also, over the years, many Force members were honoured to receive Military and State awards from Her Majesty.
On 19 September 2022, over 300 Force personnel were involved in the arrangements and ceremonies relating to Her Majesty’s funeral.
MOD Media – PO Phot Dave Jenkins RN