My recent binging of the Netflix original series, The Crown, has led to a fascination with the royal family's history. In my research, I came across the fact that Queen Elizabeth II served as a mechanic during WWII.
The Women of WWII
Women took on many roles during WWII that were typically filled by men while those men were off fighting in the war. This was a time when near everyone who could serve their country in some way did what they could to help.
Around the world, the women of WWII rallied together to serve their countries, as they did during the first World War. In the U.S., women joined a number of service groups specifically formed for women, including the Navy Women's Reserve (WAVES), the Marine Corps Women's Reserve, the Coast Guard Women's Reserve (SPARS), the Army Nurses Corps, among others. Women also worked in jobs to replace the men serving in the war. Almost 350,000 American women served in uniform during WWII.
Many British women had served in the Women's Land Army (WLA) during WWI, but they were no longer able to serve after the war was over. When WWII began, women stepped up once again to help their country and the WLA re-formed in 1939, as did a number of other organizations including the Women's Voluntary Service (WVS) and the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS).
These women filled positions that were left open by the men who were off fighting (with the U.S. and Britain only being two of many countries with women serving during the war). Whether working on a farm or in a factory, women did a great deal during this time. At the end of the war, the military had 460,000 women and more than 6.5 million in civilian war work. The future queen was no exception.
The Queen's Role with the ATS
The Royal Family has a strong history of military service, but Queen Elizabeth II's then Princess Elizabeth service stands apart from her family's. She is the only living head of state to have served in WWII and is the only British royal family member to have ever served in the Armed Forces.
She enrolled in the ATS where women served in supportive roles, including working with anti-aircraft gunners, as radio operators, mechanics, and more this was similar to the Woman's Army Corps in America during this time. Within five months, she achieved the rank of honorary Junior Commander with the ATS. You can see the Princess in action here:
She performed her job well, and she learned to drive every vehicle she worked on. She learned to take apart and rebuild engines and change wheels. Reportedly, she loved getting dirt under her nails and grease stains to show her friends these signs of labor.
When the war was over, the Princess and her sister drove out and celebrated with the crowds, recognized by no one and sharing in their joy of the end of the war.
https://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/the-role-of-british-women-in-the-twentieth-century/women-in-world-war-two https://www.military.com/undertheradar/2018/01/26/queen-elizabeth-iis-time-wwii-makes-her-most-hardcore-head-state.html https://mashable.com/2015/04/22/queen-elizabeth-army/#ZZz7V5lwCsql https://www.popsugar.com/celebrity/What-Queen-Elizabeth-II-Job-World-War-II-42661623