HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and the Monkton Magpie

HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and the Monkton Magpie
OM Club Whole School


Amid the celebrations of the life of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Monkton Combe School wishes to mark the occasion by sharing a brief history behind the Monkton Prep School badge and its links to HMS Magpie and HRH Prince Philip.

The Duke of Edinburgh was a former naval officer and captained the HMS Magpie as Lieutenant Commander Philip Mountbatten in 1950/51.

In September 1952 Michael Swift, a Monkton Combe Junior School pupil visited HMS Magpie in Gibraltar. He was armed with a copy of the school’s Magpie magazine which featured the school’s magpie badge on the front cover. Michael Swift’s visit forged a lasting link between the school and the ship when the Captain of the ship at the time, Commander Graham Lumsden DSC was taken by the design of the magpie used by the school. The captain enlisted the support of HRH Prince Philip in an effort to get the ship’s magpie badge changed to the one featured on the cover of the magazine, designed by former Monkton Art Mistress, Miss M E Bulmer.

In January 1953 a letter arrived at Monkton Combe Junior School, reading:-

“His Royal Highness feels that your Magpie is nicer than the present ship’s badge and he has asked me to write to the Admiralty to suggest that it might be substituted for the one in existence.”

Followed in February 1953:-

“The Admiralty have agreed to adopt the design of Miss Bulmer’s magpie for the Ship’s badge.”


By May 1953 the new badge was granted. Apart from the bird being turned around to face the opposite way, the badge was that of Monkton Combe Junior School. The badge was surrounded with a black annulet, symbolic of unity and friendship - here officially linking the school and ship. Pupils from the Junior School were invited to visit HMS Magpie at Spithead for the Coronation Review, held that year.  Amongst their number with Michael Swift and Ian Somervaille. 

In 1956, HMS Magpie went into reserve and then to the breakers’ yard in 1959. As a token of her friendship with the school, Monkton Combe Junior School was presented with the ship’s bell and Division Trophies which can still be found at the school today. 


There were also two small sweaters featuring the Magpie badge found among cast-off clothing of the Prince of Wales and the Princess Royal - presented as gifts from the school in 1953.

The Royal Navy now has a new HMS Magpie (the eighth HMS Magpie) of which Monkton representatives were in attendance at the launch in 2018. The ship is a small twin-hull inshore survey launch with the motto ‘lux in tenebris lucet’ (Shine Light into Darkness) - words given the seal of approval by the late Duke of Edinburgh.


History behind the magpie

The Magpie began in 1898 as a club at Monkton Combe Junior School. The club produced the first Junior School Magazine in Nov 1899 and the title has stuck with the magazine ever since. The name may also have been chosen because magpies collect things and magpies are very frequently seen on the school's grounds. The aforementioned magpie badge didn't appear until 1951, but is now registered at The College of Arms as the Junior School's badge. (Roland Symonds, 2020)

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