The Pacific Prince: Remarkable unseen images of the late Duke of Edinburgh visiting island communities during his solo 1959 round-the-world voyage come up for auction

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  • Reading time:7 min(s) read

  • The pictures were taken by an official photographer on Royal Yacht Britannia
  • Many of the images were taken in the Central Pacific Islands  

Never-before-seen photos of Prince Philip that were compiled by a member of the Royal Yacht Britannia crew on on his round-the-world cruise in 1959 have come to light.

They show 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 the Prince, the album includes images that have never been published before.

In his four-month journey, Prince Philip departed from Portsmouth and travelled to places including India and Pakistan, Rangoon in what is now Myanmar, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Solomon Islands and Bermuda.

The new photographs show the Duke, who served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, enjoying 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.

Never-before-seen photos of Prince Philip that were compiled by a member of the Royal Yacht Britannia crew on on his round-the-world cruise in 1959 have come to light. Above: The Duke of Edinburgh beaming as he tours a village in Laulasi in the Solomon Islands

Never-before-seen photos of Prince Philip that were compiled by a member of the Royal Yacht Britannia crew on on his round-the-world cruise in 1959 have come to light. Above: The Duke of Edinburgh beaming as he tours a village in Laulasi in the Solomon Islands

Prince Philip is seen being given a makeshift crown by a resident on Ocean Island (now Banaba) in the Pacific Ocean

Prince Philip is seen being given a makeshift crown by a resident on Ocean Island (now Banaba) in the Pacific Ocean

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

The Prince is also 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.

Other pictures include those from Tench Island – near Papua New Guinea – where the party stopped at 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, Hampshire, one of the country’s leading maritime dealers.

Prince Philip greets islanders on Laulasi during his round-the-world tour in 1959

Prince Philip greets islanders on Laulasi during his round-the-world tour in 1959

Prince Philip beams as he is greeted by islanders after arriving on the tiny island of Laulasi

Prince Philip beams as he is greeted by islanders after arriving on the tiny island of Laulasi

Philip is welcomed to the atoll of Vaitupu by dancers in another image that is in the amazing collection

Philip is welcomed to the atoll of Vaitupu by dancers in another image that is in the amazing collection

An islander on Laulasi in the Solomon Islands performs for Prince Philip during his visit in 1959

An islander on Laulasi in the Solomon Islands performs for Prince Philip during his visit in 1959

The Duke of Edinburgh beams as an islander on Laulasi wields a spear and shield during a performance to impress the royal

The Duke of Edinburgh beams as an islander on Laulasi wields a spear and shield during a performance to impress the royal

Islanders on Laulasi wield Union Jack flags as they welcome Prince Philip in 1959

Islanders on Laulasi wield Union Jack flags as they welcome Prince Philip in 1959

Prince Philip is seen meeting locals in Honiara, the capital city of the Solomon Islands

Prince Philip is seen meeting locals in Honiara, the capital city of the Solomon Islands

Prince Philip - an experienced sailor - is seen at the tiller of a racing canoe during his 1959 trip

Prince Philip – an experienced sailor – is seen at the tiller of a racing canoe during his 1959 trip

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 His Majesty’s Yacht Britannia, the cutter built for King Edward VII when he was the Prince of Wales. 

Mr Wallrock 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.

A local dancer wearing traditional dress is pictured on the island of Malaita in the Solomon Islands

A local dancer wearing traditional dress is pictured on the island of Malaita in the Solomon Islands

Prince Philip is pictured being carried on a throne as he is welcomed onto the atoll of Tarawa - the capital of Kiribati

Prince Philip is pictured being carried on a throne as he is welcomed onto the atoll of Tarawa – the capital of Kiribati

Prince Philip inspecting a guard of honour after arriving in Rangoon in Burma, which is now Myanmar

Prince Philip inspecting a guard of honour after arriving in Rangoon in Burma, which is now Myanmar

Dancers perform for the royal party after its arrival in Sandakan, Malaysia. A banner reads: 'We Welcome HRH The Duke of Edinburgh'

Dancers perform for the royal party after its arrival in Sandakan, Malaysia. A banner reads: ‘We Welcome HRH The Duke of Edinburgh’

‘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.’

Prince Philip is seen on the Royal Yacht while surrounded by crew members wearing fancy dress costume

Prince Philip is seen on the Royal Yacht while surrounded by crew members wearing fancy dress costume

The Royal Yacht is pictured in the harbour on the island of Malta. Britannia was launched in Clydebank, Scotland, in 1953 and had travelled more than a million miles when she was retired

The Royal Yacht is pictured in the harbour on the island of Malta. Britannia was launched in Clydebank, Scotland, in 1953 and had travelled more than a million miles when she was retired

This image, takenn in the Solomon Islands, is one of four captioned 'dancing and feasting at Graciosa Bay'

This image, takenn in the Solomon Islands, is one of four captioned ‘dancing and feasting at Graciosa Bay’ 

The Prince is also 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

The Prince is also 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

Prince Philip greets locals on Gizo in the Solomon Islands after arriving in a boat

Prince Philip greets locals on Gizo in the Solomon Islands after arriving in a boat

Locals pretending to be cannibals re-enact the 'killing' of a missionary during a display put on for Prince Philip

Locals pretending to be cannibals re-enact the ‘killing’ of a missionary during a display put on for Prince Philip

According to the handwritten caption, this image shows the wreck of a Japanese ship at Guadalcanal, an island in the Solomon Islands

According to the handwritten caption, this image shows the wreck of a Japanese ship at Guadalcanal, an island in the Solomon Islands

A photo of a small crowd seeing off the Royal Yacht on its departure from Portsmouth in January 1959

A photo of a small crowd seeing off the Royal Yacht on its departure from Portsmouth in January 1959

Prince Philip greeting islanders in Vaitupu, the largest atoll of the nation of Tuvalu

Prince Philip greeting islanders in Vaitupu, the largest atoll of the nation of Tuvalu

Philip is carried ashore in a boat to the atoll of Vaitupu in another image from the album

Philip is carried ashore in a boat to the atoll of Vaitupu in another image from the album

Prince Philip greets locals at Graciosa Bay in the Solomon Islands during his 1959 tour

Prince Philip greets locals at Graciosa Bay in the Solomon Islands during his 1959 tour

A caption on this image tells how Philip is on an 'almost extinct sailing boat'

A caption on this image tells how Philip is on an ‘almost extinct sailing boat’ 

Prince Philip carried out two solo cruises on Britannia, which was decommissioned by Tony Blair’s Labour government in 1997.

The first, from 1956 to 1957, was turned into a storyline in Netflix drama The Crown and portrayed Philip as being footloose and fancy free, prompting press reports to suggest he and the Queen were drifting apart.

Britannia was launched in Clydebank, Scotland, in 1953 and had travelled more than a million miles when she was retired.

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.

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




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