Yesterday, following the death of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on Friday 9th April, Members of Parliament from across the House were given the opportunity to pay tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh. I was grateful to be called to speak in the debate, during which I reflected on the Duke of Edinburgh's Naval career and his duty to the Queen, the country and the Commonwealth.
You can read the full speech here:
It is with honour that I rise to pay tribute to His Royal Highness the Prince Philip on behalf of my constituents. Of course, the Duke of Edinburgh was also colonel-in-chief of my corps, the Intelligence Corps, and I would like to concentrate on his military career.
We think of the Duke of Edinburgh as a dashing naval officer. Many might regard him as having been privileged and certain to succeed in life, but that was not the case. His young life was unstable and fraught with difficulties. His father was nearly executed, his family was exiled, his mother—profoundly deaf—was sent to a sanatorium, and his sister was killed in a plane crash. He did not have it easy, but in his own words,
“One just gets on with it.”
The Duke of Edinburgh served at sea throughout world war two, from the Arctic to the Pacific—five years in harm’s way. Following the night action at the battle of Cape Matapan in 1941, he was mentioned in dispatches, still only a midshipman—an officer under training. That showed his unwavering resolve, which he continued through the rest of his service to the Queen, the country and the Commonwealth.
There has always been a close relationship between the royal family and the Royal Navy. The Queen’s father, George VI, was a gunnery officer on HMS Collingwood at the battle of Jutland. He, too, was mentioned in dispatches. Two of the Duke’s sons followed him into the Navy. Indeed, my husband, Nick—yet another dashing naval officer—served alongside Prince Andrew, both Lynx pilots in the 815 Naval Air Squadron.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s life of service is an inspiration to generations of men and women in all three services. His is an incredible story of service; of duty to the Queen and his adopted country; of a life lived to the full; of a legacy of steadfastness; and of an unshakeable sense of duty but also a sense of fun, no nonsense and candour.
The 1944 “Royal Navy Officer’s Pocket-Book” suggests that a Royal Navy officer should learn that the “art of command is…to be the complete master, and yet the complete friend of every man on board; the temporal lord and yet the spiritual brother of every rating; to be detached and yet not dissociated.”
Without exception, His Royal Highness commanded that recommendation. We saw that in his innate ability to connect with all rank and file, from sea lord to sapper. He shared a unique understanding and relationship with all who served. He cared deeply and understood the values, standards and demands that military service places on our armed forces. He was one of us. He will be sorely missed by the military family, and our thoughts and prayers are with Her Majesty the Queen and the royal family at this time.
Many of us in the House who swore in the military to serve our Queen and country have lost a role model—a man with a sense of duty and service, whose desire was to see every young person achieve their best through personal challenge, discipline and resilience. My hope is that, out of the sadness of his passing, we can have conversations like those we are having today, which tell the stories of his life and service and which will inspire future generations of Royal Navy recruits.
On behalf of the Royal Navy veterans in Wrexham, I would like to end with these words: Fair winds, calm seas, stand easy Sir, your watch is done.
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