17:28 GMT16 April 2021
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    Her Majesty’s surprise visit to a memorial service within a short drive from Windsor marked the pinnacle of a day commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Royal Australian Air Force.

    Queen Elizabeth II has made her first public appearance outside Windsor Castle, where she has stayed throughout most of the pandemic, turning up maskless at a military service in Surrey, in southeast England.

    She said she was delighted to be out on her royal engagements after a lengthy pause, exchanging jokes with an officer from the Royal Australian Air Force.

    She asked him if the jets he dealt with were "being sent off to chase the Russians?" He replied, no less cheekily: "That's correct, ma'am, it's a lot of fun for us”.

    The Royal Air Force (RAF) has of late claimed it scrambled its jets on several occasions to intercept Russian aircraft approaching UK airspace, amid intensified tensions between Moscow and London.

    Wednesday’s event was the 94-year-old monarch’s only fourth engagement outside her residence since Britain went into the first lockdown exactly a year ago, and the first since her outing at Westminster Abbey in November to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior. In December, she only spent some time with the rest of royal family members during a Christmas celebration on the grounds of Windsor Castle.

    The queen and her husband, 99-year-old Prince Philip, who was recently treated in hospital for an unspecified ailment, as well as a successful heart surgery, were administered the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine back in January. It remains unclear, if couple received the second necessary inoculation, which usually comes along 12 weeks after the first one.

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