A tribute to a pioneer of nature conservation and outdoor education

In this photo taken on 31 October 1972, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip pose at Balmoral Castle, near the village of Crathie in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. – AFP file photo

On April 9, His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, sadly passed away just two months and one day from his 100th birthday. As a young naval officer in the latter stages of World War II, he commanded his own ship in the Far East as part of the Pacific navy. He witnessed the Japanese surrender in the Gulf of Tokyo, ending that terrible war.

His youth education, from the age of 13, in a Scottish independent school, Gordonstoun, in the year in which it was founded under the leadership of the educational pioneer Dr Kurt Hahn, inspired him throughout his life. The young Philip Mountbatten was aware that education must be more than just an academic achievement and must involve participation in external affairs.

My late wife, Sheila, first saw the young Princess Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip during their tour of Kenya in 1952. As a primary school student in Nairobi, she eagerly waved her flag as the royal couple passed by. A few days later King George VI died of lung cancer and the royal couple immediately returned to England. Unfortunately, that same year Sheila’s father received the same dreaded illness, only to die at Saint Thomas Hospital, London.

Despite their great family loss, my strong mother-in-law took her three girls to London on Coronation Day 1953 as their first family outing after the death of their beloved father. As a kid, I attended the Coronation event on a monochrome TV, rented at the neighbor’s for the occasion!

About six years later a cousin and I stood in an honorary guard of scouts to be inspected by Prince Philip during his visit to West Cornwall, after he was about to leave for a good lunch at the house of the Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall on a manor house near my village. I remember it well because it was a very cold day and before we could stand in line, the Scoutmaster made us take off our thick coats and hide them in the bushes. There we stood trembling waiting for the Prince’s arrival for 45 minutes, dressed in khaki short-sleeved shirts and shorts! Prince Philip arrived and joyfully spoke to each of us in turn.

A very apt question he asked one scout, “How long have you been standing here dressed like this?”

The scout honestly replied, “For 45 minutes, sir, and I’m getting cold!”

“Where are your coats?” the Prince asked.

“Hidden in bushes, sir,” was the quick reply.

“Well go and put them on and blame your Scoutmaster,” the Prince at once ordered.

In this AFP file photo taken on August 7, 1950, Prince Philip is playing polo.

Closer to East Malaysia

It was in 1994 that my late wife and I were taken to Prince Philip Park in Kota Kinabalu by our dear Malaysian friends in Sabah. We wandered among the casino trees and admired the view of the offshore islands. It is the oldest amusement park in the city and is named after Prince Philip to commemorate his visit to Sabah and the then Jesselton in the 1950s. It is said to provide the best sunset scene in Malaysia where one can see the setting sun soaking gracefully under the sea on the horizon. We were treated to coconut drinks in the middle of the morning, drinking and tasting the juice through straw before spooning the coconut meat. I believe this park area at Tanjung Aru is now extended. This public park should be preserved in memory of Prince Philip.

Naturalist and ecologist

Prince Philip claimed that “man’s intervention on the natural world had devastating effects.” He was the predecessor of the world-famous naturalist, Sir David Attenborough, in pioneering nature conservation. This principle he put into practice by allowing wildlife to abound on the Royal Estates of Sandringham, Norfolk, and at Balmoral in Scotland. He has persuaded / driven governments around the world to manage their natural environments in every way possible. His concern for wildlife, conservation and our environment was a major virtue that he truly believed in especially for forest conservation.

His enduring legacy will be seen as one of the founders of The World Wildlife Fund, which he helped establish in 1961. It was he who foresaw the effects of deforestation on wildlife and the need to conserve all wildlife on the savannah meadow. from East Africa, pandas in China, and many other animals worldwide.

Prince Philip attends the Presentation Reception for owners of the Golden Duke of Edinburgh in the gardens at Holyroodhouse Palace in Edinburgh on 6 July 2017. – AFP file photo

Prize of Duke of Edinburgh

It was his boyhood outdoor education and expeditions over the Scottish Highlands, while at Gordonstoun School, where he confirmed the school’s motto, “Plus Est En Vous”, translated from the French meaning “There is more in You”, which led to more big things. in his life. With the persuasion of Kurt Hahn, his former headmaster, that Prince Philip established his award scheme in 1956, which is now recognized as a global system for the development of young people in 141 nations.

I received the Bronze Prize from scheme D of E in 1960 but did not progress further. In those days at that level, it required a two-day expedition in a wild environment with a written and illustrated logbook, participation in services to the local community, expertise in other areas, and a certificate of first aid. As a teenager it made me value myself and made me overcome my weaknesses and assess my strengths.

Today, E’s E Award plan has helped millions of young people from all walks of life by venturing, discovering and helping others less fortunate. Each year, Gold Award recipients of the plan were invited to Royal Palace to receive their award in person from the Duke.

Prospective image released from Kensington Palace and British Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on 12 April 2021 and made by the Duchess shows Prince Philip with Prince George of Cambridge in a horse-drawn carriage at Anmer Hall in the village of Anmer in Norfolk, eastern England , on unspecified date in 2015. – AFP / Kensington Palace / The Duchess of Cambridge

Life fully lived

Prince Philip enjoyed the company of people from all walks of life, from presidents and participation from Commonwealth and other nations to those working in rural communities. A global traveler as his partner to Queen Elizabeth II and often on his own in search of endangered wildlife, he was highly valued at meetings of Commonwealth heads of state. Unfortunately, his passing not only “left a huge void” in the life of Her Royal Highness, but also in the lives of all who knew him or knew about him. Frank and direct in speech, his contribution to the success of the British monarchy will be left to historians to reveal.

True to his beliefs, he arranged his own burial without pomp and circumstance when he was laid to rest at the vault of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle with limited family members attending for the funeral under government Covid-19 restrictions. Thus, we also mourn the loss of man for all seasons and all nations as a true naturalist and ecologist.

May his son and heir to the throne, HRH Prince Charles and his grandson Prince William, continue to fly the flag for the conservation of nature.

Just before the death of Prince Philip, Prince William encouraged banks to invest in nature to deal with climate change. He told a meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund that “supporting sustainable agriculture and reforestation were the most cost-effective ways to make a difference.” He called for “investment in a future where the natural world can thrive”. His grandfather would be proud of his grandson’s commitments to fight for survival. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.