Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Queen Mum letter recalls terrifying day Hitler’s planes bombed the palace

A letter from the Queen Mother which describes the dramatic moment Buckingham Palace was bombed during a Second World War air raid has been released to mark the publication of the royal's official biography.

The note tells how Queen Elizabeth and King George VI heard a diving Nazi plane then seconds later the “scream” of a bomb which flew past them and landed in the palace's internal courtyard.

The royals had delayed heading down to the palace's air raid shelter because the King had asked his wife to take an eyelash out of his eye.

The attack on September 13, 1940, left three workmen injured and the Queen Mother described in her letter how she was shaken by the explosions.

The correspondence was penned for the royal's mother-in-law, Queen Mary, and is featured in the Queen Mother's official biography written by William Shawcross which is published later this week.

It was one of hundreds of letters from the royal archive used by the biographer to chronicle the life of the royal who died in her sleep at the age of 101, in 2001, with the Queen at her bedside.

The former monarch begins the letter, written on Windsor Castle headed notepaper, by telling her “darling Mama” how she went to see if her husband was making his way to the shelter after a “red” warning was announced at the palace.

But instead of rushing downstairs for cover, the King asked his wife to take an eyelash out of his eye and soon afterwards they heard the “unmistakable whirr-whirr of a German plane” before the bomb landed. The Queen Mother wrote: “I saw a great column of smoke and earth thrown up into the air, and then we all ducked like lightning into the corridor.

“There was another tremendous explosion, and we and our two pages who were outside the door remained for a moment or two in the corridor away from the staircase, in case of flying glass.”

She added: “My knees trembled a little bit for a minute or two after the explosions.”

The royal couple went down to the shelter and the Queen Mother checked on the housemaids taking refuge there and visited the chef in his kitchen before having lunch in the shelter before the all clear was given.

Newspaper reports from the time said five bombs had fallen on and around the palace and the injured men were three plumbers who did not have serious wounds.

During the conflict the royal residence suffered nine direct bomb hits and one death — PC Steve Robertson, a policeman on duty at the palace who was killed by flying debris in 1941.

Mr Shawcross interviewed many members of the royal family including the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales for his Queen Mother biography which is more than 900 pages long.

Speaking during an online interview for his publisher's YouTube page, Mr Shawcross said: “Her letters are the core of the book.”

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