THE Union Flag outside Ennis Smith's Crayford home flies at half mast. It will stay like that until the official mourning for Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother is over.

Ennis was one of the Queen Mother's biggest fans. "I shed a tear when I heard the news," she told the News Shopper. "I felt a little part of me had died.

"I knew it was going to happen but it still came as a shock. It is the end of an era for Bexley because so many people supported her and will remember her."

Ennis's relationship with the Queen Mother goes back nearly 30 years, when she began organising her annual birthday card from the people of Bexley, which she always took personally to Clarence House on the Queen Mother's birthday on August 4 each year.

She said: "I met her so many times. In the evening, after everyone had gone, the Royal Family would read all the cards."

Mrs Smith used to take her twin grandsons with her, and became so well known to the Queen Mother's staff she and the boys would be invited into Clarence House after the birthday greetings for refreshments and to sign the visitors' book.

"We were taken below stairs to see all the preparations which went on around the Queen Mother's birthday. Tables were laid in every room for a birthday meal and champagne for all her staff and the Irish Guards and police officers on duty outside."

Among the many gifts Ennis took for the Queen Mother over the years was a specially made corgi soft toy. "When I presented it to her I told her it wouldn't bite like her own dogs, and she replied, My doggies don't bite'," recalled Ennis. "I will really miss her and the visits to Clarence House."

When her grandsons were older, Ennis asked the Royal Hospital at Chelsea if she could take some Chelsea Pensioners with her when she delivered her card and a new tradition began.

This year was going to be Ennis's last year of organising an annual Royal event. She said: "I wanted to bow out on the Queen's Golden Jubilee. I wasn't intending to go to Clarence House this year because her birthday fell on a Sunday and she is never there on a Sunday."

Instead, Ennis had organised a celebration at the Marriott Hotel, in Bexleyheath. She said: "I have decided the event will still go ahead as a tribute to the Queen Mother's life. I will try to get a piper there and turn it into something special."

She would also like to see a bust of the Queen Mother fill the empty niche in Bexleyheath's clock tower as a permanent tribute.

Ennis planned to see the Queen Mother one more time, at Westminster Hall, where she lay in state, and to send her own card and flowers of condolence to the Queen.

She said: "I did admire her. I put her on a pedestal, as I would have done with my own mother."