United Kingdom

Boris Johnson praises Prince Philip's military service on visit to Britannia Royal Naval College

Boris Johnson praised Prince Philip's decorated service in the Royal Navy today as he visited the late royal's former training college - which is also where the then cadet met the Queen for the first time.

The Prime Minister highlighted the Duke's career in the Senior Service as he saw the latest generation of officer cadets put through their paces at the prestigious Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth.

The Devon establishment has been the starting point for the careers of generations of Royal Navy officers and the future Duke was enrolled there in 1939.

And it has been generally accepted that it was here that the future couple first met, when Philip was an 18-year-old cadet and Elizabeth a 13-year-old schoolgirl - although an upcoming book on the Prince says they had met before.

While in Devon, Mr Johnson told reporters that after passing out of the college in 1940 the Duke of Edinburgh had gone on to have 'hat amazing distinguished Navy career - the Battle of Cape Matapan, Sicily and then seeing the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay.'

'And you've just seen those wonderful cadets become officers themselves and incarnating the finest traditions of the Royal Navy, in the way the duke did himself.

'And actually, funnily enough, here in this very garden, I think in 1939, the Duke of Edinburgh met the then Princess Elizabeth for the very first time, so our thoughts are with her again today.'     

The Prime Minister escaped turmoil over the Greensill lobbying probe in Westminster by visiting the prestigious Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth.

While at Britannia in 1939, Philip was assigned to entertain the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret during a two-day visit by King George VI. A historic image shows them talking together behind a wall at the college.

While in Devon, Mr Johnson told reporters that after passing out of the college in 1940 the Duke of Edinburgh had gone on to have 'hat amazing distinguished Navy career - the Battle of Cape Matapan, Sicily and then seeing the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay.'

The Devon establishment has been the starting point for the careers of generations of Royal Navy officers and the future Duke was enrolled there in 1939.

Philip began active service as a midshipman in 1940 and by 1942, he had risen to the rank of first lieutenant after bravely fighting in the Battle of Crete and the conflict at Cape Matapan. 

The battle in the Mediterranean, south-west of Greece, took place in March 1941, when Philip was just 20 years old. 

A young naval officer, he was praised for his actions aboard HMS Valiant in the decisive fight against against the Italian Fleet.

The Duke of Edinburgh, who has died at the age of 99, joined the Royal Navy in 1939 – the year the Second World War broke out - when he was still a teenager. By 1942, he had risen to the rank of first lieutenant after bravely fighting in the Battle of Crete and the conflict at Cape Matapan. Left: Philip in 1946. Right: Phlip in 1945, when he was serving on HMS Valiant

Philip had been in control of the searchlights as the ship battled an Italian cruiser when he spotted an unexpected second enemy vessel nearby.

He survived unscathed amid his shattered lights as enemy cannon shell ripped into his position.

His commanding officer said: 'Thanks to his alertness and appreciation of the situation, we were able to sink in five minutes two 8in gun Italian cruisers.'

Shortly afterwards, he was awarded the Greek War Cross of Valour. 

While at Britannia in 1939, Philip was assigned to entertain the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret during a two-day visit by King George VI.

A historic image shows them talking together behind a wall at the college. 

Recently the Duke has poured cold water on the idea that this was their first meeting. In an upcoming memoir, the entertainer and former MP Gyles Brandreth claims that the senior Royal told him it was just a good story.

In Philip, The Final Portrait, which is released at the end of this month, he quotes Philip as saying: 'It's one of those myths that's just too good to let go. We'd certainly met before — we were cousins, after all.' 

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