Over the Easter holidays, the Ipswich School community was saddened to hear the news of the passing of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Since then, many Old Ipswichians have been in touch to share their tributes and memories.
Over his lifetime, the Duke made two memorable visits to the School. In 1956, he laid the foundation stone for the then-new Great School building, an event after which the ‘Duke’s Door’ is named. Hugh Grimwade, a former Master, accompanied him, and his son Stuart remembers how his father asked Prince Philip whether he would like to take a seat on what was a rainy day. He replied: “Certainly not, I do not want a wet backside”, a response that many remember to this day, and caused much amusement!
He then visited again in 1973, when he opened the Leggett Technical Studies Centre. Nicholas Spurgeon (OI 1966-77) remembers how, at the age of 13, he watched the Duke pilot a helicopter and land on the School field. Richard Passmore (OI 1961-73) also commented on how he was given the privilege of handing Philip the key to open the centre, and hosted lunch with him. He remembers how he spoke about the benefits of a career in the armed forces, with the challenges of leadership and opportunities it brought. His brother also remembers how, upon his second visit to the School, the Duke commented that it was good to know that a foundation stone (that he had laid) remained!
Eddy Alcock OBE (OI 1949-54), former Chairman of Suffolk County Council, also told the OI Club about a recent encounter at a 2010 DofE engagement. Reminiscing about Philip, he says: “He was in a jocular mood as always, and he decided he liked the Suffolk insignia that I was wearing. He asked if he could have it, to which I answered him with: "I’m afraid the answer has to be ‘no’ as it would be more than my life’s worth to return without it and you have many of your own already". He replied: "You are quite right; I do have many."
We hope that everyone in the community has similarly fond memories of the Duke and the substantial but highly personable impact of his royal engagements. You can email the OI Club at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to contribute.
SB, Year 13
Paul St John Turner (OI 1958-68) recalls:
The Duke of Edinburgh visited Ipswich School twice. The first time on 1st May 1956 to lay the foundation stone for the Great School, and then in 1973 to open the Leggett Technical Studies Centre. The second time he piloted himself in a helicopter which landed on the School field!
Jeremy Barr (OI 1946-56) writes:
May I be allowed to add my recollections of the Duke of Edinburgh's visit to the School in 1956? I had the privilege of welcoming HRH to the School as Head Boy at that time and the memory is still vivid. "I was inevitably extremely nervous about being introduced to the Duke and reading from the beautifully scripted scroll. As I stepped towards the microphone I heard HRH enquire of the Headmaster whether it was to be in Latin and feeling perhaps it should have been!"
In due course, I was to invite him to accompany me to the prefects' room and it was there that he demonstrated his charm and ability to put one at ease. We prefects had him to ourselves for a good 10 minutes and in no time at all the room was full of laughter, to the extent that it could be heard by the party waiting outside the building.
But it was on his leaving the School that I experienced his particular gifts of awareness and sensitivity. It was not intended that I should take part in the farewell and I was standing some way back from the Headmaster and the Chairman of Governors. Having shaken their hands, he walked back past them and made a point of shaking my hand. I will never forget that.
Chris Whitlock (OI 1955-65) writes:
I was also happy to be interviewed by Richard Slee of Meridian tv of my meeting in 1953-4 with HRH Prince Philip when at Sandringham on Christmas day & & also recalled the visit to the school in 1956.
Tim Barr (OI 1946-54) writes:
My brother Jeremy's recollections of the Duke of Edinburgh's visit to the School in 1956 prompt me to write as follows!
Quite by chance, I also had an albeit brief but memorable encounter with HRH in 1956. It was during my second year of National Service with the Suffolk Regiment when my duties called for temporary assignment to the Devizes HQ of the Wiltshire Regiment. During my time with them Prince Philip visited the Depot in, as I recall, his capacity as Colonel-in-Chief. Following the formal inspection routines and march past, I was somewhat surprised to be asked (or rather instructed) to attend HRH's reception party in the Officers' Mess. Despite my attempts to maintain a respectful low profile, Prince Philip was quick to spot my Suffolk shoulder flash, immediately strode over and exclaimed "What the hell are you doing here?" Following due explanation on my part, HRH turned to his equerry and was heard to say "Get this man another drink. He looks as though he needs one!"
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