In 1945, Princess Elizabeth, then 19, convinced her father King George IV to allow her to contribute to the Allied effort during World War II.
Elizabeth joined the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service, where her military designation was Number 230873 Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor. Her duties included driving and servicing military trucks.
This sense of duty to the British people has been the hallmark of the 55-year reign of Elizabeth Windsor, now Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom.
Today, as she turns 81 years and 244 days, she will become the oldest monarch in British history, surpassing Queen Victoria, Empress of Hindoostan, who died 106 years ago.
Queen Liz is a few months older than the much loved Bhumibol Adulyadej, the king of Thailand and the world's longest reigning monarch.
Despite her influence and wealth, the British queen retains the same hands-on approach and commitment to public service, that led her to join the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service.
In 1947, on the occasion of her 21st birthday, Elizabeth told the British people: 'I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.' Later that year, she married Prince Philip of Greece; the couple celebrated their 60th anniversary a few weeks ago.
Text: Rediff Features Desk. Photograph: John D Mchugh/AFP/Getty Images
Also read: Britain's queen is 80