Rose of York Christening

During the war, the British Royal Family conducted public relations tours throughout the UK as a way to present a strong opposition to Germany and boost the morale of the general public.  In 1942, the US entered the war, and built up its aerial forces along southern and eastern Anglia.  This prompted the Royal Family to extend a welcoming hand to members of the 8th Air Force.  The King and Queen toured numerous American air bases, escorted by delegations of generals and commanders of the 8th Air Force.  These visits were always stately occasions for the men on the base.  One notable visit occurred at Thurleigh, the base for the 306th Bomb Group. 201203375916

In May of 1944, the B-17 42-102547 was assigned to the 367th Bomb Squadron.  The crew chief, M/Sgt. Edward S. Gregory named it ‘The Princess.’  Shortly afterwards, the name changed to ‘Princess Elizabeth,’ which gave Gregory an idea for the Princess to christen the plane in celebration of her 18th birthday.

The Royal Family agreed to the arrangement under one condition:  the men had to change the name of the plane.  Officials believed that if the plane was shot down, it could be seen as a bad omen in the press.  Officials of the 306th Bomb Group complied with the request, and renamed it the ‘Rose of York.’  On 6 July 1944 the Royal Family arrived at Thurleigh accompanied by an American delegation led by General Jimmy Doolittle.  The band played as a fly over comprised of 54 B-17s soared over the field to welcome the Royal Family.  Afterwards, Princess Elizabeth took a bottle of English cider and smashed it on a metal plate fastened below the chin turret of the plane.   Applause and cheers rose from the crowds, and the airmen and ground crew of the plane met with the Royal Family.


The event lasted into the late afternoon with the guests of honor and their American allies sharing a meal in the officers’ mess hall.  As the Royal Family prepared to depart, they received a gift of a thermos of fresh ice cream, a rare treat prepared by the cooks of the base.
From the Roger A. Freeman Research Center