Navy chief pays tribute to Philip’s ‘zeal and great charm’

Laura Parnaby, PA
·3-min read

The head of the Royal Navy has paid a touching tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh as “a close friend to the service for over eight decades”.

Philip had close ties with the Royal Navy throughout his life, from serving during the Second World War to becoming the service’s Lord High Admiral on his 90th birthday.

Following his death on Friday morning, the First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Tony Radakin, said in a video message that he feels “immensely saddened” and remembered the duke’s “strong character, zeal and great charm”.

He said: “His connection with the naval service spanned his life, from his evacuation from Greece in HMS Calypso at just 18 months old, up to his final public engagement at the Royal Marines parade at Buckingham Palace in 2017.

“His genuine empathy, affection and engagement with the Royal Navy resonated with us all.”

He added: “Despite his increasing public profile, Prince Philip remained first and foremost a naval officer, neither seeking nor being awarded any special privileges for his position in the Royal Family.

“Prince Philip retained his involvement in the Royal Navy throughout his life, through official visits, patronage and association with naval charities and clubs, and always enjoyed visiting Royal Navy establishments and ships, and especially meeting sailors and marines.”

“His generous spirit has delighted all aspects of the naval service, and his deep understanding of our values, standards and ethos made him such a close friend to the service for over eight decades, and he will really be deeply missed by all of us.”

After leaving school, Philip enrolled at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth in May 1939, where he was singled out as best cadet.

The college was also where he met the Queen – then Princess Elizabeth – after he escorted her on a tour.

Admiral Tony Radakin
Admiral Tony Radakin has paid tribute to Philip (Andrew Matthews/PA)

On completion of his training, the duke served in the Mediterranean, North Sea and Pacific, and was mentioned in dispatches for bravery and enterprise during the battle of Cape Matapan in Greece.

In 1942, he was promoted to First Lieutenant of HMS Wallace, and was described as “an officer of unusual promise, noted for his seamanship skills, high intellect, good judgment, strong character, zeal and great charm”, the First Sea Lord said.

After the Second World War, the duke was posted to Pwllheli in north Wales, and as an instructor at HMS Royal Arthur in Wiltshire, where he became engaged to Princess Elizabeth.

They lived together in Malta during his service in the Mediterranean.

In July 1950, Philip was promoted to Lieutenant Commander and given his first command of HMS Magpie – a ship whose name lives on in the current Royal Navy fleet.

Despite rising rapidly through the ranks, the duke left full-time service in 1951, due to the deteriorating health of his father-in-law, George VI, and the Queen-in-waiting Princess Elizabeth’s imminent ascension to the throne required them to take on more royal responsibilities.