An Army officer whose journey towards a military career began with the Duke of Edinburgh Award – although this was not presented until he was 39-years-old – says Prince Philip was “a handrail to his life”.
The paths of Lieutenant Colonel Andy Reid and the Duke’s would cross a number of times during his service, marking some of its high points… and one or two awkward moments.
Lt Col Reid, from Broadstairs, was belatedly given his silver DofE award at the ripe old age of 39, while holding the rank of Major. Having completed the award at The Downs School, Dartford he never received it after moving on to Chatham House Grammar School in Ramsgate in 1982.
He said: “It was something that always frustrated me. However, when living at Worthy Down (Winchester) in 2006 I trained as a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Silver Trainer with Hampshire County Council and they were able to finally give me the Award making me probably the oldest ever recipient.
“The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme played a significant part in preparing me to make the decision to join the Army. I have since been to Buckingham Palace six times to receive other awards from the Duke and hosted him as Vice Principal (Military) at Defence Sixth Form College Welbeck.
“That year, 2011, I actually met him three times – once at Buckingham Palace, once at Welbeck and once at the Royal Albert Hall Festival of Remembrance where I had the job of saluting the Royal Family as they entered the Albert Hall. I started to feel that I really knew him quite well.
“At Welbeck, however, he proved to be more than a little bit testing – giving me an incredibly hard time over the conduct of the parade. He clearly understood the mechanics of military parades much better than I did! As a result, he quickly and incisively took apart my brief in a way that I had not encountered before. Fortunately, he remained in good humour, putting me back at ease and clearly enjoying talking to the cadets.”
It was not the only time, he risked running on the wrong side of the Duke. On another occasion, at Buckingham Palace, His Royal Highness presented Lt Col Reid with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Prize for the British Sub-Aqua Club (an engraved medal mounted in an acrylic case with a wooden base). As he did so, he suggested Lt Col Reid should take the medal’s acrylic protective case apart.
“To my mind it looked like a solid block and I was not sure that you could actually take it apart, so I told him I didn’t think it was a good idea! His response to such insubordination was to insist that I take it apart then and there, something I was not that happy about, but he was, of course, right and it (eventually) came apart without flying across the room in pieces!”
Describing the influence Prince Philip had on him, Lt Col Reid, 54, said: “He has effectively been a handrail to my life. The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award was easily the best thing I did at school and I am still in contact with the team and one of the teachers almost 40 years later. The Award introduced me to expeditions and in the Army, I had the opportunity to lead more adventurous expeditions.
“In 1999 I led a Joint Services expedition to look at marine life at Bikini Atoll (where 23 atomic bombs were detonated). This expedition was selected by the Duke as runner-up in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Prize for the British Sub-Aqua Club. As a result, the whole team went to Buckingham Palace in 2000 and I met the Duke for the first time. My next expedition involved a pre-disturbance survey of an historic wooden shipwreck I discovered off St Paul Island, Nova Scotia.
“We went back to Buckingham Palace, but the expedition was still only runner-up. I really wanted to win the medal! I then led a series of four expeditions electronically tagging a total of 62 sharks across the Eastern Pacific. Two of these expeditions were runners-up but two actually won the medal.
“This was something of a high point in my life. The six expeditions resulted in six visits to Buckingham Palace, each time with a Joint Services military team eager to meet the Duke and he never disappointed – engaging, interested, witty and irreverent.
“The only difficult thing was seeing him age over the 14 years that we went to see him. The six expeditions are easily the thing I am most proud of in my military career and the visits to Buckingham Palace were a perfect backdrop to the expeditions themselves. I will always be grateful to the Duke of Edinburgh for giving me something so profound to aim for.”
Lt Col Reid added: “He has been there all my life and he has given me some of my key goals in life.
“When I started to see my expedition teams proudly posting pictures of their visits to meet at Buckingham Palace on social media I was really pleased and proud but also incredibly sad that we could never go back to those days. The Duke has been, to my mind, an icon for some incredible adventures with some amazing people.”