Alexandra's Notebook

A Right Royal Pageant

In complete contrast to meeting Princess Anne, while stationed in Germany our base was graced with a royal visit from Princess Margaret. The two visits couldn’t have been more different. This one was on a grand scale and involved a military parade, a band, lots of flags, a fly-by of fighter jets, and an afternoon Garden Party in the Officer’s Mess grounds. It certainly didn’t involve Margaret meeting the ordinary service personnel except for those unlucky enough to be picked to be on parade for her arrival.

Not that I got away unscathed. I was volunteered by my Admin Corporal to do door duty on Margaret’s arrival. They wanted a number of well presented young women to open and close doors, rather than a bunch of men. Not sure why, but that’s how it went down. So, like those other poor volunteers I spent the week before the arrival doing “door practise”, as if we needed practise on knowing how to open and close a door. But, apparently, there’s a protocol for everything.

Two weeks before the arrival the whole camp was given a facelift. New paint everywhere, and I mean, in places this women would never see in a million years. Including the women’s block, for which there was a general consensus that we didn’t need to spend a week breathing in paint fumes for Margaret. By the day of the actual arrival I think she might have been the most unpopular royal on base, with everyone muttering under the breath about the extra cleaning and work.

The royal flight arrived to a full dress parade with the military band playing approved music, where this tiny diminutive woman stepped off her plane, did a meet and greet with the senior officers, walked a couple of lines of military personnel who, like me, had been stood on the tarmac for a good 2 hours by this time trying not faint in the heat of a summer day. So, by the time she reached me stood by her limo, door open at the ready, I was lightheaded and think I forgot to smile let alone do a smart salute. Suddenly the door was closed and the limo pulled away.

And that was it. She was gone, while the rest of us stood there a further few minutes waiting to be dismissed. My little bit was over, as was that of those assembled, with some of us lucky enough to go back to barracks to change and rest up, while myself and others then had to be on duty. I arrived at air traffic control to find everyone, like myself, sweltering in full dress uniform.

Altogether, a very unpleasant visit that was moaned and gripped about for many weeks afterwards.