Our sailor uncle helped the infant Duke of Edinburgh as the family escaped into exile

A local family remembers the key role their Uncle Stanley had in caring for the infant Prince Philip

Tuesday, 13th April 2021, 5:04 pm
Updated Tuesday, 13th April 2021, 6:45 pm

Lancashire vet Angela Spar has revealed the pride she and her family have in the distant relative who helped care for the infant Duke of Edinburgh as members of the Greek Royal family escaped into exile.

The death of the Duke prompted Angela to check out her own family archives and the reports of her uncle's role aboard a Royal Navy ship.

She recalled how the task of caring for the infant Philippos aboard HMS Calypso in 1922 came unexpectedly for her Great Grand Uncle Stanley Wright who was in the Royal Navy.

Vet Angela Spar pictured with the framed cutting Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

Angela from Bilsborrow, who is a vet at Pinewood Veterinary Practice in Coppull, said: “They were moored off Corfu. They had a group of peasants smuggled aboard. He had no idea who they were.

“My great grand uncle was serving aboard the HMS Calypso and smuggled Prince Philip out of Corfu as a baby, along with the Greek Royal Family. He even fed, washed and changed him when one of the servants that went with them was too sea sick to do so.”

Angela’s mother Sheila Baines, also from Bilsborrow, remembers her Great Uncle Stanley from her youth.

She said: “Stanley was my grandfather’s brother. I just remember him, only when I was young. I knew he was a regular sailor on the HMS Calypso and he went all over the world depending where the British Navy sent him. ”

Remembering the family link to Prince Philip's journey from Corfu (from left): Ella and Lucy Spar, Sheila Baines and Angela Spar. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

The crew was given leave and she noted: “It wasn’t until they were (back) on board they realised they had a family with them.”

The identity of the family, including the infant Duke, was assumed to be a group of peasants.

It was by chance that Stanley heard a youngster crying and discovered the boy’s carer was badly sea sick .

Sheila said: ”So my uncle got the baby, washed him,fed him, put him in a little crate and looked after him. It feels like it was a contribution to him getting over here safe. I always meant to write to Prince Philip about it - (but) I thought he might not like it.”

A treasured family photograph of Stanley and Molly (pictured far right)

Stanley was from Pendlebury, Salford and later he and his wife lived in Kent. Sheila said she remembers the couple being prosperous, but did not know what her uncle’s job was after he left the Royal Navy.

The family treasure a photo of Stanley and his wife Molly and a cutting of a letter Molly sent to the Manchester Evening News recalling Stanley’s timely help for the young Royal.

Molly wrote: “To the crew’s delight they were given a 24 hour leave when the ship was off the island of Corfu. Secretly, a group of peasants was smuggled aboard.The ship was put to sea in rough weather. My husband heard cries in one of the officers’ cabins where the peasants were. Inside were two very seasick girls. He helped them out.

"Later he found a servant propped up against the bulkhead with a baby on one side and a bucket on the other. He took the toddler, washed, changed and fed him.... That baby was the future Prince Philip. The Greek King had abdicated and the “peasants” were the Greek Royal Family. My husband was very proud to have looked after the royal baby.”

Ella Spar is busy working to achieve the Duke of Edinburgh bronze award Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

HMS Calypso was sent to the rescue of the Greek royal family in 1922 following the abdication of King Constantine of Greece. A military dictatorship seized power and a military court banished the King’s brother, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark for life.

Prince Andrew fled with his family, including Philippos who had been born in Corfu in 1921. The British Government dispatched HMS Calypso to evacuate the family. Philippos’ cot was reported to be made from an orange box and the family brought few possessions.They were taken to Brindisi in Italy, and travelled on to Paris.

Sheila said: “It was a troubled beginning.”

* Angela’s daughter Ella 14, is currently working towards her Duke of Edinburgh bronze award.

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Lucy Spar with a picture of her great great grand uncle Stanley