THE Queen visited Northwood on Thursday (May 6) afternoon to officially open a new military base used to plan and co-ordinate operations in Afghanistan.
Her Majesty, who is head of the armed forces, toured the home of the Permanent Joint Headquarters, in Sandy Lane, arriving with the Duke of Edinburgh at about 3pm.
The sovereign entered and exited the nerve centre using circle slide security doors – known to staff as 'the tubes' – during her tour of the £38million building, which houses senior military and civilian staff and controls all UK forces deployed overseas.
It is part of a £150million redevelopment programme due for completion in late 2011.
During the works, 42 buildings are being demolished with 20 new ones being built and two more being refurbished.
Arriving behind a police escort, the Royal couple were greeted by senior military officers including Air Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, Chief of Joint Operations.
They also met Australian Colonel David Wainwright, 43, from Perth – who commanded his country's forces in Afghanistan for eight months between 2007-8.
Conference rooms at the new building have been named after Victoria and George Cross winners, including Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry.
Some of the medal recipients were invited to attend the opening and meet the Queen, including 25-year-old Chris Finney, the youngest soldier to be awarded the George Cross.
Mr Finney, 25, who left the Army last year as a Lance Corporal of Horse with the Household Cavalry, was awarded the medal in 2003 for courage in a "friendly fire" attack during the Iraq war.
He was just 18-years-old when he rescued a colleague and tried in vain to reach another when their armoured vehicles were mistakenly hit by US war planes near Basra.
Mr Finney, who is now working for former world boxing champ Joe Calzaghe, spearheading his campaign to raise funds for armed forces charity, Help for Heroes, said: "It's a little bit strange to be here and not be on the other side. I miss the lifestyle I suppose of Army life and being around the lads – but it's a great honour to have part of this building named after me."
The Queen, wearing an apricot-coloured suit and matching hat, also unveiled a plaque to commemorate her visit.
Sir Stuart Peach told the assembled guests: "Today in this place, around the world Ma’am, we command and control 19,000 people in 17 countries–members of your armed forces who are committed every single day in support of operations.
"In Afghanistan in particular we have almost 10,000 young men and women who are conducting great acts of courage, bravery... on behalf of the nation every single day."