Popular Prince George dies in mysterious Highland tragedy
It was in this week of 1942 that a major tragedy struck the royal family and saddened many people in Britain and elsewhere.
Despite the pervasive atmosphere of death and destruction at the height of World War II, the death in a plane crash in Prince George’s Caithness, the Duke of Kent, struck a terribly melancholy note, not least because he had been a very popular figure and at age 39 was the father of three young children by his wife Princess Marina.
Mystery still surrounds the circumstances of his death, and old and new theories are still problematic as the records kept were either “lost” or sealed, possibly permanently, as is the case with many family documents. royal.
The known facts are simple and easy to relate. His Royal Highness Prince George Alexander Edmund, Duke of Kent, was killed when the RAF Short Sunderland seaplane it was on its way to Iceland deviated from course and crashed at full speed onto a hill in Eagle’s Rock near Dunbeath in Caithness on August 25th. 1942. A total of 14 people were killed, with only one survivor suffering terrible burns.
The Duke became the first royal to die in active service since King James IV of Scotland was killed at the Battle of Flodden in 1513.
The aircraft belonged to the 228th Squadron based at RAF Oban. The experienced crew had been assigned to transport the Prince to RAF Reykjavik in Iceland for what would have been one of their many regular visits for the morale of RAF personnel. The Short Sunderland traveled to RAF Invergordon seaplane base on the Cromarty Estuary and refueled, before taking off in foggy weather just after 1 p.m. on Sunday 25 August.
Less than half an hour later, the Sunderland departed from its planned route and crashed into the hill of Eagle’s Rock, igniting as its nearly full fuel tanks exploded. Among the dead were the prince’s private secretary, Lieutenant John Lowther, RNVR, grandson of the first Viscount Ullswater. The pilot, Fl Lt Frank Goyen, and the entire crew were killed except Sgt Andrew Jack, the wireless operator and rear gunner, who was hospitalized with burns.
Rescue teams rushed to the scene, but there was nothing they could do for anyone except Sgt Jack who had visited a nearby farm. There was also the police and the special branch. The area has been cordoned off and an investigation has been launched, while locals and the press have been warned to stay away.
A board of inquiry was convened and quickly concluded that the pilot’s error was the case with the accident.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill paid a generous tribute in the House of Commons to the brother of King George VI who was also the favorite uncle of our current monarch.
“The loss of this gallant and handsome prince, in the prime of his life, was a shock and a pain to the people of the British Empire, standing out miserably even in these difficult days of war. For His Majesty the King, it is the loss of a beloved brother, and it affected him in the most poignant way. I have known the late Duke of Kent since he was a child and had many opportunities to meet him during the war, both at the Admiralty and afterwards. His overwhelming desire was to render a useful service to his King and to his country at this time when we are all put to the test.
“The Duke of Kent was ready to relinquish his rank, put aside any ceremony, and endure any discomfort and danger or, what is more difficult, a dutifully performed monotonous routine, in order to feel good. sure he was making a real contribution to our national struggle for life and honor. The realm he appropriated was that of the welfare and comfort of the Royal Air Force, which involved an immense amount of work and travel and yet produced a continuous and useful result to which the personal qualities of the Duke contributed to. marked way.
Prince George was no ordinary royal. He had a deserved reputation as a playboy and reportedly had affairs with everyone from Noel Coward to Jessie Matthews. He had dabbled in hard drugs, but he had also been seen as a suitable replacement for King Edward VIII during the abdication crisis although it was his older brother Bertie who took the throne despite his nerves and stuttering.
George had no such problems and appears to have been a truly charismatic figure who had persevered in the Navy, despite being seasick, before being transferred to the RAF. At the start of the war, he was asked to become an Air Commodore and to have a public role as the face of the Air Force.
As arguably the most high-profile figure to die in Scotland during the war, a real media blitz should have taken place, but the government used its war powers to stop all investigations other than the official investigation . Her body’s return by train to London has been broadcast on the news and there are reports of people crying in cinemas as they watch.
There had been other reports and rumors about George. Did he share the pro-Nazi sentiments of his brother, the Duke of Windsor? Was he really friends with Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German Ambassador to London?
He and his family were living in Rosyth when he moved to the RAF at the start of the war. He was certainly often in the company of the Duke of Hamilton, so could he have been the real target of Nazi MP Fuhrer Rudolf Hess on his escape to Scotland?
In recent years, there have been revelations that the Duke himself could have flown the plane and that a woman, presumably her lover, had been on board. We will never know for sure …