Hemmings Motor News Blog Blog

Hemmings Motor News Blog

Hemmings Motor News has been around since 1954. We're proud of our heritage, but we're also more than the Hemmings full of classifieds that your father subscribed to. Aside from new editorial content every month in Hemmings, we have three monthly magazines: Hemmings Muscle Machines, Hemmings Classic Car and Hemmings Sports and Exotic Car.

While our editors traverse the country to find the best content for those magazines, we find other oddities related to the old-car hobby that we really had no place for - until now. With this blog, we're giving you a behind-the-scenes look at what we see and what we do during the course of putting out some of the finest automotive magazines you'll ever read.

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United Kingdom's First Truck-Driving Queen Dies at 96

Posted September 12, 2022 7:10 AM by dstrohl
Pathfinder Tags: United Kingdom

For the last 75 years or so, British tabloids often -- almost as if it were compulsory -- dragged out the tale of when Queen Elizabeth II's wartime service experience. See, unlike other women in the royalty, Elizabeth didn't shy away from service during World War II, and instead she donned a uniform and learned not only how to drive heavy trucks for the war effort but also how to wrench on them. So with her death at the age of 96, after 70 years on the throne, let's repeat the tale one last time.

As the Evening Standard wrote, the royal family chose not to flee from England to Canada during the war years "in solidarity with those living through the Blitz," and Elizabeth famously addressed the nation via radio in the early years of the war. While she'd been given the role of honorary colonel of the Grenadier Guards on her 16th birthday, two years later, she decided to join the Auxiliary Territorial Service, a branch of the British Army that initially employed women as cooks and postal workers but eventually expanded their duties to include rocket and missile data acquisition, transport, signal operation and equipment maintenance.

She joined the ATS as a second subaltern in March 1945 and her father, King George VI, reportedly ordered that she not be given any special treatment or rank -- though she still slept in Windsor Castle instead of in the barracks with her colleagues in the ATS. As part of her training, she had to pass a driving test, learn to read maps and took instruction on repairing vehicles. British press at the time apparently dubbed her "Princess Auto Mechanic." She did receive a promotion to Junior Commander, but her time in the ATS was short -- VE Day came in May 1945, putting an end to her service.

While Elizabeth doubtless gave up wrenching on trucks after her service, she continued to slip behind the wheel as often as possible for a head of state, even up until late last year, against the advice of her doctors, and only gave up driving on public roads in 2019. She likely gave up driving military trucks long before that, though.


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