THE Queen is personally backing efforts to recruit more young British women into engineering.

The 89-year-old monarch, who is said to have loved “getting her hands dirty” tinkering with cars and trucks during the Second World War, has invited some of the most brilliant young female engineers in the country to attend a reception for a prize named after her at Buckingham Palace tomorrow.

A royal source said: “For the Queen to lend her name and support to a dedicated prize is both rare and hugely significant. She can see the vital importance of engineering to our future and is proactively encouraging young people to consider it as a choice. Engineering matters and the Queen wants to play her part in telling people about it.”

In advance of the event, the palace has released a photograph of the then Princess Elizabeth as a driver and mechanic in the Auxiliary Territorial Service during the war. The official explained: “In part, this is born of personal experience. As a young woman serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the Queen learnt vehicle maintenance skills that have stayed with her to this day.

“She got her hands dirty, enjoyed it and would encourage young people today to have the same experience. And at a time when there is a big industry push for more girls to become involved in engineering, the Queen would wholeheartedly support that.

“It’s no coincidence that some brilliant and inspiring young female engineers will be coming to the reception.”

The Queen’s support comes as a report published this week is expected to reveal that Britain lags behind other nations in the status it gives to the profession. Only 6% of registered UK engineers and technicians are women, the lowest number in Europe; just 15% of UK engineering students are female.

One of the women invited to the palace is Roma Agrawal, a structural engineer who helped to build the Shard in London. Agrawal, who was photographed for Marks & Spencer’s“leading ladies” advertising campaign two years ago, said: “We need to break the sterotype of an engineer and show young girls it’s a fun career.”

This is the second year the £1m Queen Elizabeth prize for engineering has been offered. The winner this year is Dr Robert Langer, who designed implants that release drug doses in the human body.