Prince Philip: Dodging Nazi bomber was a 'frightfully good wheeze'

The Duke of Edinburgh recounted his actions during the Second World War invasion of Sicily

He is known for not always choosing his words appropriately – and now Prince Philip has described saving a Navy ship from a German bomber as a “frightfully good wheeze”.

The Duke of Edinburgh made the remark while recalling his role as a first lieutenant during the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943; a major Second World War campaign that catalysed the Italian campaign. 

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Britain at Sea, the 93-year-old described how he prevented the HMS Wallace from being sunk by a passing Luftwaffe bomber.

He said: “We did some patrolling along the coast of Sicily and one night for some reason or another some German bomber decided they could see us, and so they thought they’d have a go.

“I thought it a frightfully good wheeze – I got a Carley float, filled it with rubbish and set fire to it and launched it, hoping that the aeroplane would think we were burning or something.

“And it did! It went and had a go at it - we got away with it.”

However, despite the seeming nonchalance of his account, the Duke conceded: “It was a very unpleasant sensation.”

 

His actions were first revealed in 2003 by fellow veteran Harry Hargreaves in a project for the BBC called People’s War

But unlike Prince Philip, he gave a far more terrifying account: "It was obvious that we were the target for tonight and they would not stop until we had suffered a fatal hit.

“There was no doubt in anyone's mind that a direct hit was inevitable.

“I had been through so much that the feeling of anger and frustration was as great as the fear I and everyone else felt.”

Hargreaves later told The Observer: “Prince Philip saved our lives that night. I suppose there might have been a few survivors, but certainly the ship would have been sunk.”

Following the end of the war, Prince Philip returned to the UK in 1946; he married the then-future Queen Elizabeth II in 1947.

Read more: Prince Philip's birthday
Royal Tour 2014
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Guru Careers: HR Administrator / Training Coordinator

COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: An HR Administrator / Training Coordinator is requi...

Belong: Trustee

This is a volunteer role: Belong: Could you help change lives and reduce crime...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Director - HR Operations

£49462 - £56975 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you interested in shaping t...

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food