The passing of Queen Elizabeth II on 8th September brought back memories of my interactions with Her Majesty and also with King Charles III.
My first interaction was in 1970 when the Queen and Prince Phillip visited Napier, New Zealand. My father was the manager of the Lilliput Model Village and Railway, a tourist attraction. A special viewing was scheduled for the Royal couple. Dad was allowed to have his family present which meant getting dressed up in long trousers and a tie to see the Queen. We did not know beforehand that we would be introduced to her Majesty, finding this out just before her arrival. A quick lesson of how to bow was given. What happened after the bow and handshake is a blur, however I know I couldn’t wait to get to school next day to brag.
Prince Charles and Diana toured New Zealand in 1983. I was serving as a Military Police Dog Handler at Whenuapai Air Base. The Royal couple arrived at the Base via aircraft and were supposed to walk directly to their waiting vehicles and depart. However, the side of the tarmac was crowded with local school children and service families. An impromptu walkabout took place. I was ordered to stick with Diana while the other dog handler would follow Prince Charles.
The Queen, Prince Phillip and Prince Charles were again in New Zealand during 1990 for the Commonwealth Games. Still in the Air Force Police, I was tasked to lead the Air Transport Security Team responsible for the integrity of all air craft (Military and Civilian) being used for the Royal Tours.
Team members were on every flight that the Royals were on. Needless to say, I accompanied all three Royals at various times. We had some harrowing moments during the tours, on one occasion landing at Wellington Airport with heavy cross winds. Flying in the RNZAF 727 out of Auckland when Her Majesty expressed a desire to observe the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race depart Auckland Harbour. Bringing a passenger jet aircraft down to about 1000 feet with hundreds of other small aircraft flying around kept all crew members alert, (at a guess similar to gunners on the big bombers in WW2).
I did enjoy a cup of tea in flight with the Queen on one occasion, and on separate occasions I had coffee with Prince Phillip and a handshake from Prince Charles.
I was awarded the New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal for my services during the Royal Tours.
My last encounter with Royalty was in 1991, after I had been a casualty evacuation out of Desert Storm (the Liberation of Kuwait). Prince Charles visited the hospital I was recovering in. He read the name plate above each bed which had the name, rank and unit of the injured. Seeing RNZAF on my plate he said “RNZAF, what was the Royal New Zealand Air Force doing in Desert Storm?” Being a typical Kiwi I replied “Cleaning up the mess the poms were making”. I got a very bad look from the General accompanying Prince Charles, and they quickly moved to the next bed!
Sadly, an icon of society has passed, the Queen is dead, Long live the King. Rest in Peace.
– By Graham Bruce, Hon Secretary, Glenorie RSL sub-Branch, and Glenorie resident