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His Royal Highness Prince Philip 1921-2021
We mark the occasion of the sad death of His Royal Highness just short of his 100th birthday with a small montage of photograph of the other loves of his long and illustrious life. I understand before the war he had a desire to become a fighter pilot, but he decided on following the family tradition and joined the Royal Navy, where he graduated from Dartmouth Naval College as the top cadet of his intake. The Duke was on active service in the Royal Navy throughout the Second World War, with his first naval appointment, aged 18, as a midshipman to HMS RAMILLIES, which escorted the first contingents of the Allied Expeditionary Force from Australia to Egypt. His Royal Highness subsequently joined HMS VALIANT in the Mediterranean Fleet and was involved in action including, on 21st March 1941, the Battle of Matapan, off the coast of Greece, against the Italian fleet and for his work in control of the searchlights Prince Philip was mentioned in despatches. He was later awarded the Greek War Cross of Valour. Towards the end of the Second World War Prince Philip served in the destroyer HMS WHELP in the Pacific and was present in Tokyo Bay for the Japanese surrender on 2nd September 1945. His first and only Command was post war aboard HMS Magpie.
The Duke learned to fly, starting his flying training on 12th November 1952 at White Waltham, his instructor being Flt Lt Caryl Ramsay Gordon -followers of 'The Crown' please note! After initial training on the De Havilland Chipmunk he continued on the North American Harvard. Prince Philip was awarded his "wings" by Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir William Dickson at Buckingham Palace on the 4th of May 1953. He further qualified to win his helicopter wings in 1956 and his private pilot's licence in 1959. He recorded 5,986 hours in his logbooks flying in 59 types of aircraft. The Duke's final flight was on 11th August 1997 from Carlisle to Islay, following which he has stopped flying, although he never lost his interest in all thing's aviation related.
I had the pleasure to meet his Royal Highness and Her Majesty at a reception at Buckingham Palace back in 2002. After the official presentation to their Majesties, I had the pleasure to chat both with The Queen and Prince Philip. Suffice to say they were an absolute delight to meet and as is often reported with Prince Philip you got exactly what was written on the tin! I could not resist asking if the story concerning The Queen being particularly fond of the Engine Room on the Royal Yacht was true and that she would take guests down to see it after dinner. I had specifically read that after the Gulf War in 1992 General Norman Schwarzkopf was invited aboard Britannia and duly inspected the spotless Engine Room. After his tour it is reported he confronted Her majesty and asked: 'Okay. I've seen the museum piece. Now, where's the real engine room?' The Queen and Prince Philip laughed and confirmed the account was entirely true, with the Queen demonstrating with her arms bent how the pistons of the engines pumped back and forth! Britannia at this time had been decommissioned (in 1997) but the event was still very much in the fore in 2002. Before the Royal party departed, I suggested their Majesties better take care or the then Government may take the Royal train next. I will not repeat here what her Majesty replied!
The islanders of Tanna, one of the islands in Vanuatu in the South West Pacific, worshiped the Duke of Edinburgh as a god. Looking at what he achieved during his amazing 99 year life one tends to agree they were on the right track! His Royal Highness will be much missed by Her Majesty, The Royal Family and the citizens of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and the wider world. It is only fitting that his final journey will be on that icon of British engineering, a Land Rover hearse, designed for the purpose by the Duke himself. Fair wind and following seas your Royal Highness. R. I. P.