By GUY WILLIAMS
The recent death of Prince Philip has brought back memories of life at sea for a Queenstown man.
London-born Brian Jessop was 18 when, in 1949, he was called up for National Service, the UK’s then-peacetime conscription system.
Leaving his job at the Bank of New Zealand in the British capital, he did three months’ training before finding himself on board the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Chequers, operating
in the Mediterranean from a base in Malta.
Its second in command was First Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, aka the Duke of Edinburgh, who’d married Princess Elizabeth a couple of years earlier.
His main job was working on the ship’s guns, but Ordinary Seaman Jessop’s other role was as the Duke’s deputy cabin assistant.
‘‘My duties were to make his bed, keep his desk tidy, empty his rubbish bin and other similar chores.’’
The 90-year-old, who lives at Frankton’s Abbeyfield home, says his recollections of the Duke 72 years later have dimmed a bit, but he remembers him as being ‘‘firm but fair’’ to his subordinates.
He recalls the Duke, already something of a celebrity, being interviewed by a French journalist while the ship was docked in the Riviera port town of Cannes.
The prince couldn’t speak French and the journalist couldn’t speak English, so Jessop, a fluent French speaker, was summoned up from the lower decks to interpret.
During his 15 months on board, he met the future Queen twice, shaking her hand during
her visits to her hubby’s ship.
Jessop says while he loved being at sea, he had no intention of staying with the Navy, and returned to his job with the bank as soon as his National Service was over.
He went on to spend his entire career with the bank, and after visiting NZ for three months on a work assignment in 1969, he emigrated two years later with his late wife, Judy, a Kiwi nurse whom he’d met while she was doing an OE in London.
He had stints managing branches throughout the country before retiring in 1990 as area
manager for the top of the South Island.