As our nation mourns Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away peacefully this afternoon at the age of 96, Chris Bishop reports on her links to Suffolk and north Essex.

“Our sense of what it is to be British derives as much from the treasured towns, villages and coastline of East Anglia as it does from the great cities like London or Birmingham,” the late Queen once said on one of her many visits to our region.

It was a disaster of a natural kind that first brought the new monarch to our shores, a year after she acceded to the throne after her father, King George VI, died in his sleep at Sandringham in Norfolk.

February 1953 saw devastating floods after a storm surge battered the east coast, claiming 300 lives. After seeing the aftermath and meeting survivors in King's Lynn and Hunstanton, the Queen visited Essex while her husband, Prince Philip, flew to Martlesham, near Ipswich, to see defences being restored along the River Deben.

In happier times, in July 1961, the Queen came sailing into Harwich, a town with a proud maritime history.

Bury Mercury: The Queen waving to crowds at Ipswich docks in 2002The Queen waving to crowds at Ipswich docks in 2002 (Image: Archant)

The royal yacht Britannia dominated the harbour before the day began with a parade by 1,880 young ratings at HMS Ganges, the Royal Navy’s land-based training centre at Shotley with its famous mast.

A 21-gun salute boomed out from Alexandra Park when the Queen arrived at Ipswich, where she was met by a fanfare by the Herald Trumpeters of the Royal Artillery when she opened Civic College.

She was then driven around Ipswich Town’s Portman Road pitch in a modified Land Rover, before 8,000 children and other guests.

Bury Mercury: The Queen in the Abbey Gardens Bury St Edmunds July 1961The Queen in the Abbey Gardens Bury St Edmunds July 1961 (Image: Archant)

A busy day also saw the Queen visit an exhibition of local industry, arts, crafts and agricultural produce in Stowmarket, before travelling through Woolpit and Beyton on her way to Bury St Edmunds and her second 21-gun salute of the day. There was also an inspection of the 1st East Anglian Regiment on Angel Hill. A busy day finished with a tour of the Abbey Gardens and a motorcade procession through Bury.

On June 2, 1967, the Queen opened the new concert hall at Snape Maltings, the brainchild of Suffolk composer Benjamin Britten. But almost exactly two years later, after the opening night of the 22nd Aldeburgh Festival, a fire tore through the building. It was rebuilt in time for the 1970 festival, and the Queen duly returned to Snape to perform another opening ceremony.

In 1971, the Queen toured Maldon, in Essex. In November 1975, she opened the £11m Post Office Research Centre at Martlesham Heath, near Woodbridge – Europe’s most advanced telecommunications research facility. The Queen said she sounded "just like Queen Victoria” on the phone.

During the Queen's Silver Jubilee celebrations in July 1977, the crowds turned out in force when she toured Ipswich by car.

In 1978, the Queen enjoyed a day at the races at Newmarket. The following year, she was cheered by the crowds when she attended the Essex Show.

More visits to Newmarket followed, where in May 1983 the Queen opened the National Horseracing Museum before attending the 2,000 Guinea Stakes at Newmarket Racecourse.

In May 1985 the Queen opened the £17m Colchester General Hospital, which had greeted its first patients the year before. The following month, the Queen travelled to RAF Wattisham, near Stowmarket, and met aircrew from 74 Squadron. She also chatted to 1st Wattisham Guides and Brownies and was entertained by pupils from Ringshall Primary School.

During her Golden Jubilee celebrations of July 2002, the Queen opened the Ipswich Waterfront development.

She later headed for Stowmarket with her husband Prince Philip, to view specially-installed exhibitions celebrating Suffolk’s agricultural heritage. The couple also visited Bury St Edmunds.

In 2003, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh met about family members, friends and colleagues of personnel serving in Iraq at RAF Honington.

Bury Mercury: The Queen during a state visit in 1961The Queen during a state visit in 1961 (Image: Archant)

In April 2009, the Queen was in Bury St Edmunds for the annual Maundy service – the first time the town had hosted the traditional event in which the sovereign gives specially-minted coins to people nominated for their service to the community.

She handed out the tribute to 83 men and 83 women - one of each for each year of her life. Speaking at St Edmundsbury Cathedral, she said: "Over the last 50 years I have had the good fortune to receive loyal support and generous friendship from people across the region, be it those living in small villages or large towns and cities. For this, I would like to thank you all most warmly.

“As I travelled here this morning, I was reminded of the evolving history which has formed these counties, and which gives the whole region the reputation for which it is famed: people with an independence of spirit, a commitment to enterprise, and a tradition of dependability, living against a backdrop of beautiful countryside and priceless heritage.”

In May 2014, the Queen spent the morning at Chelmsford Cathedral, marking the centenary of the diocese and talking to volunteers.

Then it was on to Felsted School, between Braintree and Great Dunmow, which was celebrating its 450th anniversary.