Queen Mum shot rats to prepare for Nazis
Monarch feared kidnap attempt by parachutists
LONDON — The late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, was so frightened of being kidnapped by Nazi parachutists that she learned to shoot by practising on rats flushed out of Buckingham Palace.
The disclosure was made by Margaret Rhodes, the current Queen’s cousin, who said her late aunt wanted to protect her family because she feared parachutists dropping into the grounds and “whisking them away.”
The numerous rats scared out of their homes by bombs made the perfect target practice, Rhodes added. The Queen Mother was celebrated for her refusal to leave London — even after the palace was bombed during the Blitz — or allow her daughters to be evacuated. She said: “I would not send the children away without me, and I cannot ever leave the king.”
Rhodes, now 89, was interviewed by the BBC as part of its Greatest Generation series, detailing the lives of those who lived through the Second World War.
The former lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth shared details of her privileged childhood, growing up with the then-Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, and their time together during the war.
In anecdotes suffused with the great British pluck of her generation, she discussed how the Royal Family attempted to protect themselves from the threat of attack from the Germans, and how she, too, fired on enemy aircraft in an attempt to do her bit.
“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.”
Rhodes had observed the family first-hand, after being billeted at Windsor Castle. There, she said, King George VI insisted the girls were subject to similar privations as the rest of Britain, with just a few centimetres of bathwater and rations — albeit supplemented by game caught on the estate.
In moments of danger, she said, the head page would deliver a message to the family via a colour code.