As we approach the Platinum Jubilee celebrations, I am reminded that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visited Tobruk with the Duke of Edinburgh and met the King and Queen of Libya at the end of her first world tour in May 1954. During her visit to Cyrenaica, she toured the Tobruk war cemetery, attended a parade in the desert by the Royal Scots Greys and met families of the garrison troops.
At the end of the stopover, she and Prince Philip boarded The Royal Yacht Britannia, which had brought Prince Charles and Princess Anne from England on its maiden voyage. An enthusiastic heir to the throne rushed up to Her Majesty when she was piped aboard, but according to the magazine, Vanity Fair, the Queen adhered to protocol and said “No, not you, dear,” as she greeted dignitaries first, then shook the five-year-old’s extended hand before privately sharing a “warm and affectionate” reunion with her “enchanting” children in her cabin.
This was not the first British royal visit to Libya because her father, King George VI, had travelled to Tripoli on 19th June 1943 on his way to Malta to present a Field Marshal’s baton to Viscount Gort. In Libya, the King was hosted by Major General Brian Robertson, who later earned fame for his part in the relief of Berlin. This was a low key visit compared with the triumphant parade for the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill in February because the Luftwaffe was still very active along the North African Coast, as evidenced by the near-death experience handed to General Horrocks a fortnight earlier.