Prince Philip once lit up enemy ships as Royal Navy warships tore them apart during a bloody nighttime WWII naval battle
- Prince Philip, who died Friday at the age of 99, was a decorated WWII combat veteran.
- He earned a valor award for lighting up enemy ships in a nighttime battle, helping the British achieve victory.
- He is also credited with helping save his ship from an enemy bomber in a battle two years later.
Prince Philip, who died on Friday at the age of 99, was a decorated
Allied forces delivered a devastating blow to the Italian navy at Cape Matapan just off Greece on March 28, 1941, sinking several enemy vessels in quick succession.
"I seem to remember that I reported that I had a target in sight, and was ordered to 'open shutter'. The beam lit up a stationary cruiser, but we were so close by then that the beam only lit up half the ship," Philip recalled in the forward of the 2012 history book Dark Seas: The Battle of Cape Matapan.
"At this point all hell broke loose," he said. "All our eight 15-inch guns started firing at the stationary cruiser, which disappeared in an explosion and a cloud of smoke."
"I was then ordered to 'train left' and lit up another Italian cruiser, which was given the same treatment," he said.
During the nighttime fight, British warships sank three cruisers and two destroyers, some in a matter of minutes. The Italians lost more than 2,000 sailors. One account from the battle said that "thousands of bodies were strung over fifteen miles of sea off Cape Matapan."
For his actions during the fight, Philip was awarded the Greek War Cross, a military decoration for heroism.
Two years after the Battle of Cape Matapan, Philip took part in the allied invasion of Sicily, serving as a first lieutenant and second-in-command aboard the destroyer HMS Wallace, a ship he is credited with helping save from a nighttime bomber attack.
Harry Hargreaves, a former Royal Navy sailor who served with Philip aboard the Wallace, recalled the events of the 1943 fight in the early 2000s in discussions with British media.
He said that the Wallace was facing almost certain destruction by a German Luftwaffe bomber. "It was obvious that we were the target for tonight and they would not stop until we had suffered a fatal hit," he said.
He said that in that terrifying moment, he saw Philip in a hurried conversation with the ship's captain, presumably trying to come up with a plan of action before the bomber came back around.
"The next thing a wooden raft was being put together on deck," the former yeoman said. "Within five minutes they launched the raft over the side, at each end was fastened a smoke float." Once the raft was in the water, smoke began to billow up, as it might from a wounded warship.
The captain relocated the Wallace and then ordered engines stopped, sitting quietly in the darkness, bracing for the next attack. When the bomber circled back around for another run, it targeted the raft billowing smoke as though on fire. The plan had worked.
Several years after the end of World War II, Philip became admiral of the Sea Cadet Corps, colonel-in-chief of the Army Cadet Force, and air commodore-in-chief of the Air Training Corps. The following year, he was promoted to admiral of the fleet, field marshal, and marshal of the Royal Air Force.
Philip met his future wife of more than seven decades, Queen Elizabeth II, as a young cadet at the Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth just a few years before the war.
"It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh," Buckingham Palace announced Friday. "His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle."
- Reliance Industries net profit more than triples in the last eight quarters to $2.8 billion
- Reliance Retail earns $1.3 billion more than its best-ever quarter
- Reliance Jio is making the most money it has ever made from its subscribers
- Twitter’s long-awaited hexagonal profile pictures that give bragging rights to NFT HOLDers is here — but not everyone loves it
- IIT-Bombay’s annual socio-weekend to start from January 22