Prince Philip’s connection to Simon’s Town

Prince Philip served in the Royal Navy during World War II.

Commander Leon Steyn, curator SA Naval Museum

The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip of Greece, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, died on Friday April 9. He held a unique connection with Simon’s Town and our South African Navy.

He joined the Royal Navy at the outbreak of the World War II in 1939 and by 1942 was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. In 1944, he transferred to the new W class destroyer, HMS Whelp, which saw service with the British Pacific Fleet in the 27th Destroyer Flotilla.

He was present in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese surrender was signed.

Philip returned to the UK on the Whelp in January 1946. Following his marriage to Queen Elizabeth II in 1947, he continued his service in the Royal Navy and was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in 1950 and given command of the modified Black Swan class sloop HMS Magpie.

In 1952, Philip was promoted to commander but ended his active naval career in July 1951. HMS Whelp was acquired by the South African Navy in 1953 and renamed SAS Simon van der Stel. The destroyer remained in SA Navy service until 1972 and was eventually scrapped in 1976.

Old ties were renewed in 1993, when the SAS Drakensberg was invited to attend the 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic in the UK. The opportunity presented itself for the Chief of the South African Navy, Vice Admiral Robert Simpson-Anderson, to present the main ship badge of his old consort, HMS Whelp, to Prince Philip.

An earlier connection with Simon’s Town lies at the heart of the Dido Valley cemetery just outside Simon’s Town. Here one finds the grave of Emily Roose, who was the erstwhile nanny of a young Prince Philip during the 1920s. The grave of Ms Roose, who died in 1933, is a large marble slab and can be found in the Christian section of the cemetery. Her tombstone reads: “In loving and deeply grateful remembrance of 25 years devoted friendship and service from Prince and Princess Andrew of Greece and their children, Margaretha, Theodora, Cecile, Sophie and Philip.”

Ms Roose joined the Greek royal family in 1905 and followed them into exile in 1917. She left the family in 1928 when she became affected by arthritis and relocated to Simon’s Town to live with her brother and sister until her death in 1933.

Princess Anne, the second child and only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, visited the gravesite at Dido Valley Cemetery in April 2012 on her tour of South Africa, to pay her respects to her dad’s nanny.