Prince Philip: War Hero And Youth Ambassador

Prince Phillip visits the Field of Remebrance

As the news breaks that Prince Philip is to retire from public duties later this year, many will reflect upon his role as the Queen’s consort and husband. Nonetheless, the Duke of Edinburgh is also a war hero, potentially saving many lives during the Allied Invasion of Sicily, and he has tirelessly pursued young people’s development both at home and abroad.

When Clarence House announced the Duke of Edinburgh’s retirement this morning, much of the media’s attention turned to the Duke’s sometimes controversial comments and public gaffes. The Duke of Edinburgh was, however, a First Lieutenant in the Royal Navy by the tender age of 21, and he can also be credited with thwarting the attempts of a Luftwaffe bomber to destroy the HMS Wallace during the Allied Invasion of Sicily.

As the Observer notes, Prince Philip’s astute and cunning plan duped the enemy into bombing a burning raft instead of the HMS Wallace.

“It was then Philip conjured up a plan to throw overboard a wooden raft with smoke floats that would create the illusion of debris ablaze on the water. As he hoped, the German plane was fooled into attacking the raft while the Wallace sailed to safety under cover of darkness.”

The story of Prince Philip’s ingenious plan to hoax the German Bombers first emerged in 2003, when Harry Hargreaves, a Royal Navy veteran who was aboard HMS Wallace that night, approached the BBC’s “Peoples War” website and offered his experience. Speaking to the Observer, Hargreaves describes how Prince Philip potentially saved his life.

“Prince Philip saved our lives that night. I suppose there might have been a few survivors, but certainly the ship would have been sunk. He was always very courageous and resourceful and thought very quickly. You would say to yourself ‘What the hell are we going to do now?’ and Philip would come up with something.”

Prince Phillip in uniform as he returns to Royal Naval School
Prince Philip Salutes As He Resumes His Attendance At The Officers Royal Naval School In 1947. [Image PNA Rota/Keystone/Getty Images] Keystone/Stringer / Getty

Prince Philip has worked tirelessly in public office to promote the interests of almost 800 different charities and to raise awareness around conditions such as heart disease and muscular dystrophy. Perhaps, though, Prince Philip is better remembered for his contribution to the Duke Of Edinburgh Award Scheme. Founded in 1956 by Prince Philip, Lord Hunt, and Kurt Hahn, the award was targeted towards boys aged between 14 and 17-years-old. In post-war Britain, there was a growing concern in relation to the lack of constructive activities available to boys between leaving school at 14-years-old, and then being conscripted into National Service at 18-years-old. The Duke Of Edinburgh Award Scheme became a roaring success, and within two years, due to popular demand, the scheme was extended to girls.

Although originally intended to provide constructive activities for young people and to foster a sense of social responsibility among that age group, the award scheme also assisted many young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Prince Phillip Duke of Edinburgh Gold Awards
Prince Philip Congratulates Participants At The Duke Of Edinburgh Gold Awards. [Image Danny Lawson/Getty Images] Danny Lawson / WPA Pool/Getty Images

By 1980, the Duke of Edinburgh Award had extended the scheme to 25-year-old men and women, and the organization offered help and assistance to those young people who wished to start their own business. Today, the scheme assists young people from around the world, operating in more than 140 countries.

When participants have achieved the Gold Award, they are personally invited to St. James’s palace, where Prince Philip presents them with their awards. Prince Philip has demonstrated steadfast support for young people’s development for more than 60 years, irrespective of their nationality or position in society.

The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme saluted Prince Philip’s devotion to the world’s youth.

“HRH The Duke of Edinburgh has remained committed to the Award since its birth over 50 years ago. He continues to be involved, particularly in recognising the achievements of Award participants and the adults who support them.”

Prince Philip can be proud of his achievements while in public office. May he enjoy a long and happy retirement.

(Featured Image by David Crump/Getty Images]