Like many UK engineering and manufacturing companies, WH Kemp was saddened to learn of the death of His Royal Highness, The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Which is why it seems apt we should post our own tribute to the man who once said, “Everything that wasn’t invented by God, was invented by an engineer!”
As accolades continue to pour in from around the globe, many people – perhaps the younger ones among us – have expressed surprise to discover Prince Philip’s links with the engineering and technology sectors went far beyond cursory curiosity. The truth is his interest in industries such as aeronautics, engineering design and science was profound.
Amongst his 750 or so patronages, many were business organisations, some specifically from the science, research and engineering sectors. For example, The Association for Science Education, the Marine Biological Association, Cambridge University Engineers’ Association and the Society for Nautical Research.
By his own admission, his lifelong love of engineering was triggered by his early career in the Royal Navy, where he was “surrounded by engineering” on warships. Soon after World War 2, he famously stated Britain was “completely skint” and “seriously damaged”, proposing recovery could only be reached “through engineering.”
Lord Browne of Madingley, former CEO of BP and a past president of the Royal Academy of Engineering, went as far to say Prince Philip helped to save British engineering in the 1970s. He was referring of course to the Prince’s role as a ‘key mover in the creation of a national engineering academy.’
Prince Philip was in fact the Senior Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering. In its tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh, the Academy stated, “His genuine enjoyment and passion for engineering were evident in his many visits to the Academy and his typically challenging discussions with the engineers he met.”
The Academy’s use of the word ‘challenging’ is significant because it goes some way towards symbolising the Prince’s character. Whilst younger generations might spontaneously use curmudgeonly, gaffe-prone, or even rude to describe the man, those with longer memories knew him as an intelligent moderniser with a thirst for knowledge. Someone inherently inquisitive, who enjoyed the company of engineers, scientists and business entrepreneurs. In fact, such was the extent of his fascination with industry, technology and engineering, he was capable more than most of joining in, debating and sometimes ‘challenging’ new ideas.
Had it been possible, our view is the Prince would have made an excellent Chairman of a large UK engineering corporation. It has been well documented he did not suffer fools gladly, recoiled from verbose, overly polished speeches, and had an uncanny ability to recognise individuals who had not mastered their brief. His board of directors would certainly have been challenged!