Retiring Prince Philip's naval career

Rachel Gray
Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, Lord High Admiral of the UK, wearing British naval uniform.

Prince Philip is stepping down after years of service with the British monarchy, not least of which has been his long association with the Royal Navy.

While a crew member on a battleship in World War II he came up with a plan to float pieces of wood, ablaze and smoking, in the dead of night to confuse the enemy.

"I filled it with rubbish, set fire to it and launched it, hoping the aeroplane would think we were burning," the prince later told BBC radio.

The ingenious plan worked. German bombers overhead attacked the burning wood as his ship, HMS Wallace, sailed away under the cover of darkness from the shores of Sicily in 1943.

"I thought it was a frightfully good wheeze," he said.

His final official duty as a royal on Wednesday in London, aged 96, is a charity parade for the Royal Marines at Buckingham Palace.

Prince Philip graduated as a Royal Navy cadet in 1940 before spending his first six months at sea aboard HMS Ramillies, escorting Australian troop ships to Egypt.

In 1941 the young sailor was transferred to HMS Valiant, where he helped sink two Italian cruisers in the space of five minutes by working the battleship's searchlight.

After a stint on land for more training, the he returned to war in 1942 as a sub-Lieutenant before rising to become a First Lieutenant at only 21 years of age.

He was on HMS Whelps in the Tokyo Sea when the Japanese surrendered following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

After the war Prince Philip continued to work for the Royal Navy while juggling his duties as a husband to Princess Elizabeth and as a father to their first child Charles, born in 1948.

But it was not until the death of his father-in-law King George VI in 1951, and the subsequent crowning of his wife as Queen Elizabeth II, that the royal with a passion for the sea had to say goodbye to his naval career.

As Duke of Edinburgh he accompanied the Queen as her consort and to date is the patron of more than 700 organisations, including as the Admiral of the Sea Cadet Corps.

On his 90th birthday the Queen honoured her husband with the title of the Head of the Royal Navy.

The well-decorated Duke has been awarded no less than 25 medals for his dedication to the armed services.