April 11th, 2021

The Duke of Edinburgh: My Contribution To His Legacy

He was of his time and I am of mine and if it had been possible for us to meet on an equal footing (which is the only footing on which I'm interested in meeting anybody) we wouldn't have taken pleasure in one another's company.

The nearest I came to entering his world of struggle and duty and making the lower ranks feel uncomfortable was by joining his Award Scheme for young people. I didn't want to do it, but my boarding school offered us a choice: we could go in the corps- which meant dressing up as a soldier, sailor or airman once a week and being shouted at by a schoolmaster pretending be an RSM- or we could opt for the Award Scheme- which at the time was new and as trendy as anything infused with the Prussian ethics of Gordonstoun was ever likely to be. I chose the D of E because at least it wouldn't require me to wear uniform- and engaged in its activities with wholehearted resentment.

Towards the end of the first year they sent us on an orientation exercise. This involved dropping a group of us at night somewhere on the South Downs and telling us to find our way home. Well, we blundered around for a while until a farmer descended on us and told us we were trespassing on his land. (I don't think the people in charge of the exercise had considered that some of the wild open country we were going to have to cross might be privately owned.) He rang the college and someone came to pick us up and the master in charge of the D of E got shouty and contemptuous (because we'd embarrassed him)and sacked us- or at least me, I'm not sure about the others- for being a total waste of space.

And that was that. Thereafter my Wednesday afternoons were for me to do with as I pleased.