Queen’s nod to Australia in joyful return
The Queen delivered a tribute to Australia in her first public appearance since the Meghan and Harry interview and her husband Prince Philip's hospital stay rocked the royal family.
The monarch, 94, said she was "delighted" to be out as she attended a ceremony to mark the centenary of the Royal Australian Air Force at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Air Forces Memorial in Runnymede, Surrey.
She wore a lime green coat and hat along with an Australian wattle brooch presented to her on her first tour of the country in 1954 as she returned to the public stage for the first time in five months.
The Queen has spent much of the year holed up at Windsor Castle during the COVID-19 restrictions in the UK.
"You've got a good day for it. It's a very windy spot normally," she said as she watched a Red Arrows flypast.
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A wreath was laid on her behalf by her new equerry, Major Thomas White, before the monarch viewed panels bearing the names of Australian war dead and met RAAF personnel.
Speaking to one officer about working with Typhoon jets in Northumberland, she asked if they were "being sent off to chase the Russians".
He replied: "That's correct Ma'am, it's a lot of fun for us."
Wednesday's engagement was only the fourth time the Queen has been seen outside the walls of her residence since England's first lockdown began a year ago.
She was last seen in public in November at a service at the Cenotaph in Westminster for a service marking Remembrance Sunday.
The monarch has also made various appearances on video, recently to encourage anyone who was hesitant about the vaccine to "think about other people rather than themselves".
The Queen and Prince Philip received their jabs at Windsor Castle in January.
The Queen met with RAAF personnel stationed in the UK, telling one recent arrival: "It's rather bad luck to have arrived in lockdown isn't it...
"I hope in the next couple of years you'll be able to travel a bit more."
She spoke to Australia's High Commissioner George Brandis about the number of Australians stuck in Britain because of the pandemic and the efforts being made to get them home, saying: "There are worse places to be stuck."
In her foreword to Wednesday's order of service, the royal said: "As one of the oldest Air Forces in the world, it is fitting to pay tribute to the efficiency, skill and sacrifice of the men and women who have served in its ranks, in Australia and overseas, during the past one hundred years.
"Throughout my reign, the Royal Australian Air Force has shown immense dedication to duty and has defended our freedom in many conflicts around the world," she added, sending her "best wishes and congratulations" to the RAAF.
The Queen was promised a present, to be delivered later, of two RAAF dog jackets for her new corgis. "That's very kind," she said. "I look forward to it."
Prince William will also mark the centenary with a video message this evening, reflecting on the service, courage and sacrifice made by generations of RAAF men and women.
Mr Brandis said in a speech that the RAAF was the second oldest independent air force in the world.
"The Royal Australian Air Force has, over these one hundred eventful years, grown to be one of the most accomplished in the world," he said.
"From its first major combat operations during the Second World War, its personnel have been engaged almost continuously, in war and peace, ever since: the Berlin Air Lift; the Korean War; the Malayan Emergency; the Vietnam War, East Timor, very many coalition and United Nations operations and, most recently, Operation Okra and Operation Slipper in the Middle East.
"On most of those occasions, the RAAF has worked in close partnership with the RAF."
Originally published as Queen's nod to Australia in joyful return