HMS Prince of Wales Camilla
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Camilla And The Military

BFBS looks at the close bond between the Duchess of Cornwall and the Armed Forces

HMS Prince of Wales Camilla

Camila, Duchess of Cornwall is the wife of Prince Charles. That means, one day, she will officially be Queen Consort – although it has been said in the past by Clarence House Camilla will instead assume the title of Princess Consort.

In Spring 2020, Camilla took up the role of Colonel in Chief of The Rifles after the title was passed over to her from her father-in-law, the Duke of Edinburgh, who has steadily retired from his many honorary positions.

But her role with The Rifles is just one aspect of Camilla’s close relationship and bond with the British Armed Forces … a closeness that traces its origins not solely in the fact that she is a senior member of the Royal Family.

Here, BFBS explores the ins and outs of the Duchess’s close ties to the Armed Forces, which include honorary roles in each of the three services.

This is all the gen on Camilla and the Armed Forces …

Camilla Duchess of Cornwall at Chepstow
Camilla Duchess of Cornwall visiting The Rifles, of whom she is Colonel in Chief, in Chepstow. Credit: BFBS

Camilla’s Father

The Duchess of Cornwall’s father, Bruce Shand, was a highly decorated soldier of the Second World War.

After completing training at Sandhurst in 1937, he commissioned into the 12th Lancers and at the outbreak of war was deployed to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force.

Lieutenant Shand was present for the Dunkirk Evacuation and was awarded a Military Cross in the process.

A year and a half later while serving in North Africa, Lt Shand again saw action, resulting in him being awarded a bar to his Military Cross.

At El Alamein in November 1942, Lt Shand was injured in battle and captured. He was transferred to a Prisoner of War camp in mainland Germany where he remained until liberation in 1945.

4 Rifles Op Toral Medals Duchess of Cornwall

After the war, Bruce Shand was promoted to Major but was retired from service as he was unable to fully recover from the injuries he sustained in El Alamein. He married the Honourable Rosalind Maud Cubitt in 1946 and the couple had three children, the eldest of which was Camilla.

For the rest of his life, Bruce was the military book reviewer for Country Life magazine and in 1990 authored his war time memoirs, Previous Engagements. He died of cancer in 2006 at the age of 89.

Duchess of Cornwall Visits RAF Halton
The Duchess of Cornwall visiting RAF Halton, of which she is the Honorary Air Commodore

Andrew Parker Bowles

Camilla was married to Major Andrew Parker Bowles in 1973. At the time, Parker Bowles was a squadron leader in the Household Cavalry.

From 1981 to 1983, Camilla and Andrew lived in Hyde Park Barracks in Knightsbridge, London, where he was the Commanding Officer of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment.

Camilla
Camilla Duchess of Cornwall

During this time, the regiment went through a difficult period which included an IRA attack on mounted guards at Hyde Park who were on their way to the changing of the guard ceremony at Horse Guards Parade.

The terrorist attack claimed the lives of four members of the Blues and Royals Squadron and seven of the regiment’s horses.

Parker Bowles himself was capbadged Blues and Royals and reportedly ran out of the barracks' gates and to the scene on the bombing immediately.  

In 2018, (now) Brigadier Parker Bowles revealed in comments given to the author Robert Hardman for the book, Queen of the World, that the Queen spoke to him directly in the days following the attack and described the event as, “The most ghastly day of my life.”

Camilla and Andrew’s relationship came to an end in 1995 when the couple divorced.

HRH Duchess Of Cornwall

Camilla married Prince Charles in a civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall on April 9, 2005, which was then followed by a blessing at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.

Upon marriage, she became the Duchess of Cornwall, a rank that afforded her the status of being the second highest woman in the United Kingdom order of precedence – second only to Her Majesty the Queen.

Prince Charles and Camilla with Yeoman Warders 130220 CREDIT BFBS

Since then, the Duchess has steadily grown the number of military titles afforded to her across the three armed services.

Most recent to the list of military honours held by the Duchess is Colonel in Chief of The Rifles, a position passed to her by a retiring Duke of Edinburgh in 2020.

But there are many others ...

Victoria Cross and George Cross Association Prince Charles PA
Prince Charles and Camilla with the Victoria and George Cross Association. Credit: PA

The List Of Military Titles Held By Camilla

As well as being Colonel in Chief of The Rifles, the Duchess of Cornwall also holds the following military honours:

Lady Sponsor                                  HMS Astute

Commodore in Chief                    Naval Chaplaincy Service

Commodore in Chief                    Naval Medical Services

Honorary Air Commodore          RAF Leeming

Honorary Air Commodore          RAF Halton

Colonel in Chief                              Special Reconnaissance Regiment

Royal Colonel                                  4 Battalion Rifles

And in addition to these British titles, HRH Duchess of Cornwall also holds the position of Colonel in Chief of the Royal Australian Corps of Military Police and Colonel in Chief of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada.

 

Dan Hughes, second from left, was presented his Lance Corporal rank by HRH Duchess of Cornwall in November 2010. Credit: Daniel Hughes

As well as her formal ties to the Armed Forces, the Duchess of Cornwall regularly visits different parts of the military, which has included the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment – the unit her ex-husband Andrew Parker Bowles once commanded.

While visiting the London based regiment in 2010, Camilla handed out a number of presentations and promotions to members of the ceremonial unit. One such soldier was Dan Hughes, who on the day of the royal visit was promoted to Lance Corporal.

Ten years on, Dan told BFBS he has vivid memories of the day the Duchess of Cornwall came to his base and gave him his stripes. He said:

“I remember it being a very formal visit from Camilla, with myself and another Trooper having to be in immaculate Combat 95 kit ready to receive our promotions … the rest of the regiment was in Number 2 dress and Coveralls."

Dan Hughes said that Camilla was "engaging" in the short opportunity he had to talk with her at the visit. Credit: Daniel Hughes

Dan, 31, who today runs his own physical training business in Guildford, Surrey, recalled that Camilla was very engaging in the short conversation he was able to have with her. He said:

“I was very nervous. The other Trooper and I had very little time to practice our drill ready to greet Camilla.

“We both marched up to Camilla and halted out of time, but I don’t think Camilla noticed. 

“The conversation was brief but she was very engaging.  She asked me how I was and what my job role was within the regiment. It was brief but something I will always be proud of.

“I have the picture hung up at home and it’s always a great conversation starter whenever I have friends over.”

 

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