PRINCE PHILIP, 1st DUKE OF EDINBURGH
Following the sudden death of Philip's uncle - Sir George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven, formerly Prince George of Battenberg (1892-1938), Philip moved in with Mountbatten and Edwina at Brook House, Park Lane, London. Philip admired Mountbatten greatly and Mountbatten himself thought of Philip as the son he never had.
It was during this time, Philip decided that he wished to join the Royal Navy. Philip took the competitive examination for the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth as a Special Entry Cadet and passed 16th in a class of 34, however in the oral examination he scored 380 points out of a possible 400. On 4th May 1939, Philip entered Dartmouth and on 22nd July, the Royal Yacht Victoria & Albert anchored in the River Dart for a special visit by King George VI (1895(1936-1952), Queen Elizabeth, formerly The Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon and later The Queen Mother (1900-2002) and their two daughters - accompanied by Mountbatten, who had arranged for Philip to 'entertain' the two young princesses. It has been said it was then that Princess Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth II (1926(1952-2022) fell in love with "the fair-haired boy, rather like a Viking, with a sharp face and piercing blue eyes." This was not their first meeting as they had met at numerous family occasions, but it definitely was their first encounter where a potential romance was recognised by both of them.
ABOVE: A short film by Pathé about the visit in July 1939
of King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and their daughters -
Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II)
& Princess Margaret,
to the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth
BELOW: A photograph of Prince Philip playing croquet
with Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II)
during the visit of the Royal Family to the
Royal Naval College Dartmouth
After 4mths onboard HMS Ramillies, Philip was transferred to HMS Kent, then to HMS Shropshire. He was involved in convoy duties, but Philip found this frustrating and wanted to see action. With a little help from Mountbatten, Philip was soon transferred to HMS Valiant forming part of the Mediterranean Fleet. In night action against the fascist Italian fleet off Cape Matapan, Philip was entrusted with searchlight control, a duty he performed so well that it led to him being mentioned in dispatches. Rear Admiral Sir Charles Morgan (1889-1951), the Captain of HMS Valiant wrote - "thanks to his alertness and appreciation of the situation, we were able to sink in five minutes two 8" gun Italian cruisers." As a result of his service in the Battle of Cape Matapan, Philip was given the Greek War Cross (Third Class) by his cousin King George II of the Hellenes (1890-1947). Soon the Greek Royal Family (who had left the Greek mainland for Crete in April 1941) were forced to flee once more to Alexandria, Egypt with The King leaving onboard HMS Decoy, which was accompanied by HMS Valiant. Only Philip's mother remained.
With the increasing political turmoil across Europe in 1939, it was clear to Philip and his other cadets at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth that inevitably any ship they were posted to would be involved in a War. On 1st September 1939, the UK Government declared war on Nazi Germany and by the end of his 8mths training, Philip won 'the King's Dirk' as the best all-round cadet of his term and subsequently 'the Eardley-Howard-Crockett Prize' as the best cadet in the College.
On 1st January 1940, Philip was rated Midshipman and posted to HMS Ramillies. Philip saw this as a 'safe' posting and was unhappy that he was receiving preferential treatment being a Prince. He had been advised to apply for British citizenship by Mountbatten, but due to the start of World War II, the bureaucratic channels had slowed down his application. Philip knew that if his career in the Royal Navy was to progress, his citizenship application would need to be successful- but personally Philip disliked being labelled 'of Greece' as it automatically made him appear un-British and obviously a foreigner.
The insignia of the
Greek War Cross (3rd Class)
Whilst posted to HMS Valiant, Philip was involved in the Battle of Crete. In May 1941, Nazi Germany began an airborne invasion of Crete and although the Allies were confident of success, German forces were able to bring in reinforcements and gained ground. On 22nd May 1941, HMS Valiant itself was hit badly and after an eleven day battle, the Allies evacuated most of their troops to Alexandria, Egypt, whilst the remainder surrendered on 1st June 1941. The cost of the Battle for Crete was high for both sides - total casualties among Commonwealth forces were 15,743, of whom 1751 were killed or died of wounds. However, German losses were very high with more than 3000 died during the battle and a similar number were wounded.
In June 1941, Philip - who had been due for promotion to Sub-Lieutenant was ordered back to England to take his qualifying examinations. After a long journey home via South Africa, Philip was promoted on 1st February 1942 and was posted to HMS Wallace - where he served for two years protecting convoys in the dangerous and cold North Sea. He was promoted again in June 1942 to the rank of First Lieutenant and was said to be (at the age of 21yrs) the youngest officer in the Royal Navy in the rank. In October 1942, HMS Wallace was ordered home to England for a refit, which meant Philip had eight months in England. During the invasion of Sicily in July 1943, as second in command of HMS Wallace, Philip saved his ship from a night bomber attack. He had devised a plan to launch a raft with smoke floats that successfully distracted the bombers allowing the ship to slip away unnoticed.
TOP RIGHT: HMS Whelp in 1944
Prince Philip, as a First Lieutenant
In February 1944, Philip was appointed First Lieutenant on the destroyer HMS Whelp. There was a short delay between launch and commissioning and Philip stayed at The Mountbatten's home in Chester Street, London whilst his new ship was fitted out. Whilst serving on HMS Whelp, he saw service under the command of Admiral of the Fleet Sir James Somerville (1882-1949) with the British Pacific Fleet in the 27th Destroyer Flotilla. Following the atomic explosion at Hiroshima, Japan which brought about the end of the War, HMS Whelp was assigned to escort HMS Duke of York (which had joined the American Fleet at Okinawa).
With help from Mountbatten, Philip was present in Tokyo Bay when the instrument of Japanese surrender was signed on 1st September 1945. Philip finally returned to England on HMS Whelp in January 1946 and was initially posted to HMS Glendower, the Naval Training Centre at Pwllheli, Gwynedd, Wales and subsequently was appointed as an instructor at HMS Royal Arthur, the Petty Officers' School in Corsham, Wiltshire.
In February 1944, Philip was appointed First Lieutenant on the destroyer HMS Whelp. There was a short delay between launch and commissioning and Philip stayed at The Mountbatten's home in Chester Street, London whilst his new ship was fitted out. Whilst serving on HMS Whelp, he saw service under the command of Admiral of the Fleet Sir James Somerville (1882-1949) with the British Pacific Fleet in the 27th Destroyer Flotilla. Following the atomic explosion at Hiroshima, Japan which brought about the end of the War, HMS Whelp was assigned to escort HMS Duke of York (which had joined the American Fleet at Okinawa). With help from Mountbatten, Philip was present in Tokyo Bay when the instrument of Japanese surrender was signed on 1st September 1945. Philip finally returned to England on HMS Whelp in January 1946 and was initially posted to HMS Glendower, the Naval Training Centre at Pwllheli, Gwynedd, Wales and subsequently was appointed as an instructor at HMS Royal Arthur, the Petty Officers' School in Corsham, Wiltshire.
During World War II, Philip wrote to Princess Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth II (1926(1952-2022) and she reciprocated with letters and small parcels of 'goodies' to get him through. When on leave, Philip would travel to spend time with the Princess, who with her sister spent most of the War in the comparative safety of Windsor Castle. King George VI (1895(1936-1952) initially was not keen on his eldest daughter's choice of romantic interest, but by the end of the War his views were beginning to change, saying - "I like Philip. He is intelligent, has a good sense of humour and thinks about things the right way." Soon news of the Royal romance hit the headlines in the newspapers even to the extent that a poll was held on whether the British public would accept the Heir to the Throne marrying a foreigner. Whilst staying with the Royal Family at Balmoral in the Summer of 1946, Philip proposed to Princess Elizabeth. The engagement to the Heiress Presumptive was kept quiet due to the numerous issues and difficulties which needed to be overcome and The King asked for them to wait until after Princess Elizabeth's 21st birthday. Distance was also put between Philip and Princess Elizabeth as on 1st February 1947, The King, The Queen and their two daughters left Portsmouth, England onboard HMS Vanguard and headed to South Africa for a Royal Tour.
Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II)
making a speech on her
21st Birthday in 1947
One of the complications of the engagement was the question of Philip's nationality - he was born a Prince of Greece & Denmark and a member of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg and as a result was often viewed with suspicion both within Court circles and in the press. His career in the Royal Navy was also in jeopardy due to his nationality, as they did not allow peace-time commissions to non-British citizens meaning that further advancement was impossible. Mountbatten had encouraged Philip to apply to become a naturalised British subject to ensure that nationality would not preclude him from either a romance with the Princess or a career in the Royal Navy. On 28th February 1947, Philip became a British subject, and after some discussion on a surname he chose his maternal family name of 'Mountbatten'. The other main complication was Philip's faith as he had been baptised in the Greek Orthodox Church, but in October 1947 he was formally received into the Church of England.