NOSTALGIA: Guard parades at night in Portsmouth as former king returns home from exile

King George V and his three sons (the Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII on the left) arrive at Cosham railway station on the evening of Monday, July 15, 1935

On December 11, 1936 King Edward VIII abdicated and a title had to be found for him.

His brother Albert who became King George VI created the title His Royal Highness the Duke of Windsor.

Having left Portsmouth dockyard just after 2am on December 11, 1937, HMS Fury passes the Round Tower taking the Duke of Windsor into exile

As we know, the Duke and his bride, the former Mrs Wallace Simpson who became the Duchess of Windsor, took up residence in France.

Many thought that would be the last that would be seen of them.

But in 1939, with the Second World War just days old, they both returned to England.

And they came back here through Portsmouth dockyard.

The Duke of Windsor making his famous abdication broadcast.

This was more than a little ironic because it was from the same place that the former king had sailed into exile two years earlier aboard the destroyer HMS Fury accompanied by HMS Wolfhound.

In his book The Sky Was Always Blue Admiral Sir William James, then Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth, tells us that Winston Churchill, then First Sea Lord, told him the couple were to arrive on September 21 and that the Duke and Duchess were to receive all honours.

For the first and probably the last time a guard of honour was paraded to receive the couple when they arrived in the destroyer HMS Kelly (Mountbatten’s ship) at 9pm. Guards were never paraded after sunset.

Apparently the duke was in the highest of spirits and looking forward to obtaining some appointment with the army in France.

Old Bedhampton looking along Bidbury Lane towards St Thomass Church about a century ago.

The Duchess looked tired after the long journey but was charming and grateful for anything that was done for them.

The duke had no secretary or valet and on arrival at Admiralty House went to the admiral’s office to telephone about his car.

Admiral James recorded: ‘How strange it must be to have to fend for oneself after reaching middle life without having to give a thought to the details of daily existence.’

The Duke left the following morning buoyant, thrilled at the prospect of doing some useful work during the war. He had served in France during the First World War.

The same scene looking towards the church today, allthough hidden by foliage. Still peaceful apart from the roar of the roar of traffic from the A27.

As we know, it didn’t quite work out like that.

The couple later left England on board the destroyer HMS Express heading for Cherbourg.

They then left for the Bahamas to take up residence and a war appointment.

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