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

Antonia Molloy
Thursday 12 June 2014 15:44
Comments
The Duke was speaking on BBC Radio 4's Britain at Sea
The Duke was speaking on BBC Radio 4's Britain at Sea

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.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in