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History Rewind: ‘Wings’ for The Duke of Edinburgh

Duke of Edinburgh
On 4 May 1953, The Duke of Edinburgh received his wings. The Duke was awarded his pilot’s wings in a private ceremony that was held at Buckingham Palace. Air Chief Marshall Sir William Dickson, Chief of Air Staff, present The Prince with the award.

Flight-Lieutenant Caryl Ramsay Gordon, Philip’s flying instructor, also was in attendance at the ceremony. He watched as the Duke completed three solo circuits and landings at White Waltham airfield in Berkshire.

Philip’s Harvard aircraft was complete with five stars signifying his rank of Marshal of the Royal Air Force.


The wings were awarded by an officer that was junior in rank to the recipient, which was a first. It was also a first that an officer of with senior rank was given the award. Pilots become eligible long before they obtain such an elevated rank.

Prince Philip although awarded his wings does not allow him to fly multi-engine aircraft. Therefore, he was not permitted to fly himself and Her Majesty on short jaunts to Balmoral or Sandringham. Also the government at the time was not in agreement as to The Duke flying with The Queen alone.

Philip earned his helicopter wings with the Royal Navy in 1956 and 1959 his Private Pilot’s Licence.

After accumulating 5,986 hours flying in 59 various types of aircraft, The Duke hung up his aviator glasses in 1997.

From 1952 until 2002, he was Grand Master of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators.

A short video of The Duke of Edinburgh taking to the sky in his flying lesson may be seen below:

photo credit: Supermum1 via photopin cc

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