Warrant Officer Anita Prior recently left the RAF following a successful 38 year career. She was thrilled to learn she would be ending her service by attending the Patron's Lunch to mark Her Majesty The Queen turning 90. In this guest blog, read about Anita's day out on The Mall!
In March, I entered the Fund's competition to win a chance to attend The Patron's Lunch. I was due to leave the RAF in May after almost 38 years of service, with my husband having also served for 35 years, so I thought what better way to mark the end of my service to the Queen, than to attend her birthday celebrations. During our time in the RAF we applied annually to attend the Queen's Garden Party but had been unsuccessful every year.
To my delight, I was contacted by the Fund on April 14 to say we had been successful and that we would be attending the Lunch. Fast forward seven weeks and my husband, Norman, and I arrived in London for a two night trip – the atmosphere in the capital was amazing.
Despite the rain, we queued on Sunday morning with great excitement, with the friendly volunteers chatting to us and handing out goodie bags. Wandering down to The Mall, we joined another queue, collected our hampers and took to our seats.
Also joining us on our table was Bomber Command veteran Dave Fellowes, who joined the RAF when he was just 17. As an air gunner with 260 and 460 Squadron, he completed more than 30 operations during his service. It was a real privilege to meet him and to hear all about his RAF career.
Despite the rain, we lined the barriers so we had great views of the parade. The dancers and the band kept us entertained for the next hour or so, when the rain eventually eased and we were able to enjoy our marvellous hampers!
We finished our picnic as they announced the Royal Family's arrival. Sadly their car didn't stop close to where we were stood, but soon after Prince Edward, The Countess of Wessex and their daughter Lady Louise Windsor walked past and stopped to talk to me. They then continued to meet guests who were sat on the table next to us, not realising it was Sir David Jason, Dame Penelope Wilton, Lesley Garrett, Christopher Biggins and Kriss Akabussi with their respective partners and family all clearly enjoying the day the same as we all were.
Prince William then made his very eloquent speech, which was followed by Her Majesty The Queen making a joke about her birthday celebrations hopefully not lasting until December. At the end of the speeches we all sang The National Anthem but as I was standing right next to Lesley Garratt, I was slightly drowned out!
The sun came out and everything began to dry, including my husband, who had refused to wear his poncho as he was already soaked by the time he had received his. The parade came around again which this time included some of the Chelsea Pensioners who received a massive cheer.
We had a marvellous day, not spoilt by the rain, and we have some lovely souvenirs to take back with us to remind us of the day for many years to come. Thank you so much to the RAF Benevolent Fund for choosing us to attend the event. We will never forget it.