Philip had ‘real affinity’ with armed forces throughout his life

Claire Hayhurst, PA
·3-min read

The Duke of Edinburgh had a “real affinity” with the armed forces throughout his life, the First Sea Lord has said.

Admiral Tony Radakin paid tribute to Philip at Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, Devon, on Monday.

In May 1939, Philip, then aged 17, entered the college as a special entry naval cadet for training, following the footsteps of his paternal grandfather and uncles.

He was named best cadet on his course before beginning a career in the Royal Navy that saw him serve during the Second World War and reach the rank of commander.

The college is also the location of the officially recognised first meeting between the duke and the Queen in 1939.

Admiral Radakin recalled first meeting Philip while serving as a junior officer on HMS Leeds Castle in the Falklands.

“We were all getting ready for a royal visit, that’s a big deal for a ship, and we heard stories that apparently he wasn’t in the best of moods so we were all extra nervous,” he said.

“Then he arrived on board and he was full of charm, he was instantly comfortable in the surroundings of a ship.

“I don’t know if that was nonsense in terms of what we were being told.

“I just came across somebody who went down really well with the ship’s company, who was interested in them, who had a real affinity to us as sailors and wanted to learn what we were doing and how things were.

“I think that is a description of what his relationship with the armed forces was like all the way through his life.”

Admiral Radakin paid tribute to Philip’s “warmth and affection” and his ability to put people at ease.

Dr Jane Harold, the college’s historian, said the meeting between Philip and the Queen, then aged 13, at the naval college allowed them to have “quality time together”.

First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Tony Radakin (Ben Birchall/PA)
First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Tony Radakin (Ben Birchall/PA)

She said the royal party played a “great game of croquet” on the captain’s garden, the lawn outside the captain’s house at the college.

“In fact, the prince and princess had actually met on a couple of occasions before they met at Dartmouth,” Dr Harold said.

“There was a royal wedding, the king’s coronation, but both of these were very formal occasions and actually Princess Elizabeth would have been very, very young.

“She was only 13 when she came to Dartmouth and has no recollection of meeting Philip until she met him at Dartmouth.

“Certainly this was the first opportunity they would have had for some quality time together, certainly the first opportunity they would have had to play a game of croquet or play as they did with the captain’s children’s train set.

“You couldn’t have done that in Westminster Abbey, for example.”

Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth (Ben Birchall/PA)
Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth (Ben Birchall/PA)

Dr Harold said Captain Frederick Dalrymple-Hamilton, the captain of the college at the time, kept a detailed diary of the royal visit.

“There are regular mentions of Prince Philip and his duties as hosting the two princesses,” she added.

“He was present at meal times, he was in the background when the royal family were watching the demonstration in the gym.

“He followed the royal yacht out when it departed.

“So from beginning to end, Philip was a presence.

“Of course, they needed somebody to make sure that the princesses were kept amused while their parents were doing all their official duties.”

In June 2011, the Queen conferred the title and office of Lord High Admiral to Philip on his 90th birthday.

The final engagement in his official programme was a Royal Marines parade at Buckingham Palace in August 2017.