Fullbore Friday

from those much is given, much is expected

Prince Philip passed today after a long and full life defined by service and duty.

I first posted this years ago when he left his official duties, but thought it was the right thing to do to bring it back. 

As a nod to his service - serving as men of privilege and education should - let's take a moment today to recognize a good XO.

Hargreaves was a yeoman aboard the destroyer HMS Wallace on which Philip, son of Prince Andrew of Greece, had been appointed first lieutenant - second-in-command - at the age of 21. In July 1943, engaged in the Allied landings in Sicily, the ship came under repeated bombardment at dead of night and its crew realised that they would probably lose their lives.



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.

Hargreaves recalled the terrifying events of that night on the website: 'It was obvious that we were the target for tonight and they would not stop until we had suffered a fatal hit. It was for all the world like being blindfolded and trying to evade an enemy whose only problem was getting his aim right. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that a direct hit was inevitable.

'There was no question but to accept that on the next run or the one after that we had little chance of survival. I had been through so much that the feeling of anger and frustration was as great as the fear I and everyone else felt.

'It was less than five minutes after the aircraft had departed and - if the previous space in time was approximately the same - we had about 20 minutes to come up with something. We couldn't steam far in that time, not even far enough to make the aircraft think we had moved.'

He continued: 'The first lieutenant [Philip] went into hurried conversation with the captain, and the next thing a wooden raft was being put together on deck. Within five minutes they launched a raft over the side - at each end was fastened a smoke float. When it hit the water the smoke floats were activated and billowing clouds of smoke interspersed with small bursts of flame gave a convincing imitation of flaming debris in the water.

'The captain ordered full ahead and we steamed away from the raft for a good five minutes and then he ordered the engines stopped. The tell-tale wake subsided and we lay there quietly in the soft darkness and cursed the stars, or at least I did. Quite some time went by until we heard aircraft engines approaching.

'The sound of the aircraft grew louder until I thought it was directly overhead and I screwed up my shoulders in anticipation of the bombs. The next thing was the scream of the bombs, but at some distance. The ruse had worked and the aircraft was bombing the raft. I suppose he was under the impression that he had hit us in his last attack and was now finishing the job.

'We lay there waiting for him to leave, which he did, and, in view of the solitary attacks so well spaced apart, we were convinced he would not return. It had been marvellously quick thinking, conveyed to a willing team and put into action as if rehearsed.'

Speaking from his home in Westport in Ontario, Canada, Hargreaves 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. 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.'

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