Chelsea Pensioners share recollections of HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
17th April 2021
The Royal Hospital Chelsea community continues to send our thoughts and condolences to the Royal Family at this difficult time. Many of our Chelsea Pensioners were fortunate enough to meet HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at the Royal Hospital’s Founder’s Day celebrations or through his other official duties. Some also met him during their military and civilian careers. Here, two Chelsea Pensioners share their fascinating memories of Prince Philip.
A “man for all seasons”
Chelsea Pensioner David Griffin, former Royal Warwickshire Fusiliers and ex-Royal Marine, recalls speaking to Prince Philip, the Captain General of the Royal Marines until 2017, on many occasions during his military career.
“On board ship, below decks, there were no ‘airs and graces’. I made tea for him one day below decks on one of our biggest carriers. Many years later he returned that courtesy by making tea for me, under canvas in the northernmost regions of Norway with the mountain leaders of 45 Commando. He really was that ‘man for all seasons’. He felt truly at ease with ship’s company.”
A meeting in the Antarctic
In 1957, Chelsea Pensioner Jim Fellows was working for The British Antarctic Survey at a base on Deception Island, Antarctica.
News arrived that Prince Philip was returning from opening the Olympic Games in Melbourne and had expressed a wish to visit some of the British working in the Antarctic. He visited several bases, including a whole day at Deception Island, where Jim’s team entertained him for lunch with seal and penguin steaks.
That evening, Prince Philip invited the team for dinner on board HMY Britannia. Afterwards, they went to the ballroom – which had a carpet put on the floor to convert it to a cinema – and watched Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
Jim recalls the evening vividly, and it remains a powerful memory of his time in the Antarctic. In 2010, Jim sent a DVD of slides and other Antarctic memories to Prince Philip. “He wrote back to me, thanking me for the disc, and said that he enjoyed it,” said Jim. “He signed it Philip.”
During the recent lockdown, Jim – who has been taking part in art classes – painted a portrait of Prince Philip and the HMY Britannia, from a photo taken at the time.
“I was looking through photos and thought this was an important one to paint,” he said.