Navy

Dartmouth's Naval College Remembers 'Sailor's Sailor' Prince Philip

The Duke of Edinburgh's naval career began at the college in 1939, before he went on to serve in the Second World War.

Britannia Royal Naval College (BNRC) in Dartmouth, where Prince Philip's Naval career began in 1939, has paid tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh following his death, describing him as "the sailor's sailor". 

Prince Philip had strong connections to the military, being appointed both Lord High Admiral and Captain General Royal Marines in his lifetime, being succeeded by Prince Harry as the latter in 2017.

The Duke began his Royal Navy career in 1939 by training at Dartmouth, and would later go on to serve with distinction in the Second World War.

Britannia Royal Naval College's Commanding Officer, Captain Roger Readwin, explained the lasting importance of the Duke to the college.

"My memories of the Duke actually go back to my own passing out parade in April 1992, when he was the guest of honour and taking the salute on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen.

"The Duke of Edinburgh was slightly late, it was a hot April day, but as soon as he arrived there was an air of confidence about the Duke Edinburgh.

"As he arrived onto the parade ground, as he was walking talking to all the cadets, he was taking his time.

"I remember when he came to our division of midshipmen, he was asking where we were going next, but he was doing that in the context of he had actually done the journey we were about to go on.

"So it's a wonderful memory from our passing out parade and over recent days it's wonderful to see those I passed out with sharing similar memories of how personable he was, engaging he was and really the Duke of Edinburgh in my view was the sailor's sailor.

"He could talk the talk to anybody and some wonderful leadership qualities which I will take forward as we continue to deliver Royal Naval officers here at Dartmouth."

It was while an officer cadet at BNRC that a young Prince Philip first met the then-Princess Elizabeth, when he was tasked with escorting her on a visit.

Reflecting on Prince Philip's time at Dartmouth, Commander William Peters, second-in-command at the college, said the Duke's experiences at the institution stayed with him for the rest of his career.

"When Prince Philip came to the college, aged 17, he was only here for eight short months.

"But in those eight months... he recalls himself in his own memoirs about his vivid recollections of his time on the river in cutters and whalers and what he would refer to as instruction discipline and indoctrination that he experienced here.

"So I think his experiences at the college very much stayed with him throughout his career as a naval officer when he did come back and visit on occasion."

Commander Peters went on: "But also more latterly as the Consort to the Queen, when he would have visited many passing out parades, not least for his two sons, Charles in 1971, when he joined, and Andrew in 1979.

Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) is the initial officer training establishment of the Royal Navy, on a hill overlooking Dartmouth, Devon, England 190721 CREDIT ALAMY
Royal Navy officer training has taken place in the town of Dartmouth since 1863 (Picture: Alamy).

"When young men and women join the Navy today and they stand on that parade ground for the first time they look up and see the insignia engraved in the front of the college the words of Charles II from the mid-17th century, preamble to the articles of war: 'It is on the Navy under the good providence of God that the wealth prosperity and the peace of the nation depend.'

"I think those words are enduring, they look up to those and see the importance of Britain as a maritime nation and a maritime power.

"Coupled with that comes the Royal connection, and the college truly is royal.

"When we think that the Queen's father, grandfather and uncle were all trained here then we see that enduring royal connection to training throughout the decades over the last 150 years."

Gun salutes took place across the United Kingdom, in Gibraltar, and on Royal Navy ships at sea on Saturday, following Prince Philip's death.

Forty-one rounds were fired, starting at midday with one every minute for 40 minutes.

The Duke of Edinburgh's funeral will take place on Saturday 17 April as a ceremonial, rather than state, event.