Prince’s tour of duty album for sale

26th September 2023

Charles Wallrock of Wick Antiques with the Britannia photo album

An astonishing photo album compiled by a member of the Royal Yacht Britannia crew on Prince Philip’s solo round-the-world cruise in 1959 has come to light.

It shows pictures of the Duke of Edinburgh visiting various far-flung places, including some of the remotest islands on earth.

Having been put together by an official photographer for himself, it includes images that have never been published before.

The album follows the four-month journey from Portsmouth, through the Mediterranean, down the Suez Canal, to ‘Rangoon’, Singapore, Hong Kong, and then through a number of South Pacific islands and back via the Panama Canal.

Photographs show the Duke, who served in the Royal Navy during World War II, being taken for a trip on an ‘almost extinct’ sailing boat in the Solomon Islands, and at the tiller of a native racing canoe off the island of Tarawa.

He is shown being carried aloft in a boat by dozens of natives on the island of Vaitupu before a feast of roast sucking pig and breadfruit.

The Prince is pictured approaching Gizo in the Solomon Islands in a war canoe before the party is entertained by a re-enactment of natives killing a missionary.

Pictures also include those from Tench Island where the party stopped on the request of the Duke who wanted a picnic. They thought it was deserted but met with the 53 natives.

Other photographs depict the various peoples visited, giving an insight into their cultures and dress.

The album is being offered for sale by antique dealer Charles Wallrock of Wick Antiques in Lymington, Hants, one of the country’s leading maritime dealers.

He has included it in his new book ‘Britain on the high Seas – war and wealth’, which includes other remarkable items for sale, among them two giant racing flags from the Royal Sailing Yacht Britannia.

Charles said: “Flicking through this album is a remarkable journey back in time, and the contrast between the Duke in his white uniform and the often grass-skirted South Pacific Islanders is clear.

“But so are the smiles on the faces of everyone as the different cultures meet in locations right around the world.

“There are two photographers listed as crew – both ‘Leading Airmen’, A Masters and T Roberts – and the album is likely to have been put together by one of them.

“It is neatly captioned and includes a map of the voyage that went right around the world.

“There are some fascinating photos of what happened when Britannia passed over the equator.

“The crew are in bizarre fancy dress and the Duke appears to be joining in with the traditional ‘crossing the line’ ceremony.

“One photograph shows a half sunken Japanese ship from the war and in the accompanying book to the voyage the legacy of the war in that region is apparent.

“What is also clear is the interest the Duke has in the boats used by the islanders, and he is pictured in various craft.

“His interest would have been professional because he was a naval officer – and an extremely good one – and served in the Mediterranean and Pacific fleets in World War Two. Royal duties forced him to retire from the senior service in 1952.

“This album provides a wonderful insight into his life on the voyage and into that of the crew, many of whom gave up chances of promotion to stay with Britannia.

“Collectors of Royal memorabilia will be interested in this, as well as more general collectors.”

Britannia was launched in Clydebank, Scotland, in 1953 and was retired in 1997 having travelled more than a million miles, providing a suitable floating residence for the Royal family.

She was a symbol of the Commonwealth and helped generate billions of pounds in trade deals.

Prince Philip married Princess Elizabeth in 1947 and died in 2021 aged 99. He was worshipped as a god by those on the remote South Pacific Island of Tanna.

The album, which has 74 photographs, is on sale for £1,250.

Penny Mordaunt, the former Conservative leadership contender, has recently unveiled plans for new Royal yachts.

They would be capable of performing a range of roles from disaster relief to research, and the cleaning up of oceans.

The Album can be viewed here: https://wickantiques.co.uk/product/duke-of-edinburghs-world-tour-1959-on-hm-yacht-britannia/

The book can be viewed here: https://wickantiques.co.uk/publications/britain-on-the-high-seas-wars-and-wealth/

For more information contact Ed Baker at Deep South Media on 07788392965 or ed.baker@deepsouthmedia.co.uk

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