The Queen was instructed on how to defend herself against a Nazi invasion – thanks to a gun lent by then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
This is just one of the more intriguing details revealed in a new Channel 4 documentary, which airs tonight.
D-Day: The King Who Fooled Hitler shows how the 14-year-old Princess Elizabeth and her sister, ten, alongside the Queen Mother, were given shooting lessons in the grounds of Buckingham Palace to ready them in the event of a raid by Nazi parachutists during the Second World War.
The Queen Mother, shown here during a trip to South Africa in 1947, shows off the rifle skills she acquired in the event of a Nazi invasion on the palace, according to a new documentary
Winston Churchill, who served as prime minster during the Second World War, lent his own Tommy gun to the royal family, so they could learn to defend themselves against a Nazi attack
A studio portrait of Princess Elizabeth, aged 14 and Princess Margaret, ten, in 1940 – the same year they were first given shooting lessons in the gardens of Buckingham Palace
Despite a plea by MI6 to evacuate the royal family to Canada, King George VI refused and stated that he wished to stay, fight and “get my German”, prompting Winston Churchill to lend his own personal Tommy gun to the family.
Speaking in the programme, Professor Richard Aldrich from the University of Warwick, added: “The King expects German paratroopers to turn up at any moment. He never goes anywhere in his car without a rifle and a pistol. He is sending out the message that we’re not going to run.”
During her lessons, the Queen Mother apparently used rats flushed out of Buckingham Palace as target practice.
King George VI with the Queen Mother and their daughters, pictured in 1942, at Windsor
Speaking in an interview four years ago, the Queen’s late cousin, Margaret Rhodes, revealed how the royal used the vermin to perfect her aim, as she lifted the lid on life growing up with Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.
‘Queen Elizabeth did learn how to shoot a pistol in the gardens of Buckingham Palace,’ she told the BBC.
‘I suppose quite rightly, she thought if parachutists came down and whisked them away somewhere, she could at least take a parachutist or two with her.’
Queen Elizabeth, pictured in 1993 at the centenary of the Army Rifle Association at Bisley
Take aim: The Queen shows off her skills by firing the last shot on a standard SA 80 rifle
Tonight’s documentary also reveals how King George VI actively worked on behalf of British intelligence and was fully admitted into the ultra-secret planning for Operation Overlord, the codename for the D-Day in landings in June 1944, which marks its 75th anniversary this year.
On March 3 his private secretary Sir Alan Lascelles noted in his diary: ‘Two ‘MI’ men called on me yesterday, and explained how the king’s visits in the next few months could assist the elaborate cover scheme whereby we are endeavouring to bamboozle the German intelligence over the time and place for Overlord.’
The programme reveals how King George VI (centre), pictured with Sir John Anderson, Clement Attlee, Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden in August 1944, was admitted into the secret planning for Operation Overlord, the codename for the D-Day landing
Visits by the king (pictured on an inspection of troops with Queen Elizabeth and Princess Elizabeth on March 24, 1944) to the South-East of England were publicised to convince the Axis powers that Calais was the point of attack, rather than Normandy
In the programme, intelligence expert Dr Rory Cormac describes the entry as a ‘really significant clue, as it just gives us a little hint that the king not only knew about one of the biggest secrets of the war, but had an active and personal role in it himself’.
He said George’s visits to troops in southern England – previously thought to be random photo opportunities – were part of an elaborate disinformation campaign.
In particular, visits to the South-East were publicised to convince the Nazis that Calais was the point of attack, rather than Normandy, and that the invasion was imminent rather than still in preparation.
Princess Elizabeth was also enlisted in the deception strategy. A newspaper report on March 24 said she had made her first ‘full-length tour’ to inspect troops with her parents.
Bombed: King George VI and Queen Elizabeth pictured at Buckingham Palace in 1940. The Royal Family’s efforts to deceive the Nazis over the D-Day landings has been revealed
Such publicity around a visit from the whole Royal Family was used to fool the Axis powers into dismissing any potential invasion of Normandy by the allies.
In the event, D-Day became the largest seaborne invasion in history and laid the foundations for an eventual Allied victory.
D-Day: The King Who Fooled Hitler will be broadcast on Channel 4 on Sunday at 8pm.