Her Majesty the Queen surprised everyone today as, accompanied by her grandson Prince William, she carried out her first public engagement outside a royal residence since lockdown.

At the age of 94, the Queen chose to venture out despite the current rise in coronavirus cases, to pay a visit to the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down.

It was the third Royal visit in Wiltshire in one week.

The purpose of the visit was to launch the laboratory's new £30m Energetics Analysis Centre, a building used by hundreds of scientists for research and analysis.

Salisbury Journal: The Queen with Dstl Chief Executive Gary AitkenheadThe Queen with Dstl Chief Executive Gary Aitkenhead

Dstl’s Chief Executive, Gary Aitkenhead said: "There is no greater accolade than to have The Queen and The Duke of Cambridge open this extraordinary building, particular during a global pandemic.

"This is testament to Dstl and our people as a proven national asset, not just in forensic science and explosives detection, but across a wide range of scientific fields, including artificial intelligence, cyber and quantum and in doing so providing an advantage to our military and security services.

"It’s great for us to showcase our work, which benefits us all in the UK, and to be recognised in this way is a great honour."

As part of the visit, the Queen and Prince William also:

  • met staff who have been providing specialist scientific advice and support during the pandemic and those involved in the operational response to the Novichok incident
  • viewed interactive displays and met scientists who talked about their work detecting explosives, helping identify terrorist networks and analysing forensic evidence
  • witnessed a simulation of a forensic explosives investigation by scientists from the Forensic Explosives Laboratory (FEL)
  • saw the Linear Accelerator (Linac), an X-ray machine used for inspecting weapons and munitions
  • and met police search dog Max, who is trained using canine explosives training aids

Salisbury Journal: Picture: PAPicture: PA

During the visit, The Queen and Prince William made a special presentation of the Firmin Sword of Peace to the Army’s Headquarters South West in recognition of its contribution to the city of Salisbury and its communities following the Novichok nerve agent attack in March 2018.

Colonel Mike Duff, the Deputy Joint Military Commander for the decontamination operation, who received the Sword on behalf of the headquarters said: "It is a huge honour to receive the Firmin Sword of Peace in recognition of the work done by Headquarters South West. This was a true team effort that would not have been possible without contributions from across Defence, including Dstl, and the local authorities."

You can see more pictures from the visit here