NOSTALGIA: Princess worried about lord mayor’s bald head in hot sun

Princess Elizabeth
Princess Elizabeth
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The picture of the former Nuffield United Services Officers’ Club in the heart of Portsmouth brought back some fascinating memories for Rosemary Stanley.

Her story happened on a warm summer’s day in 1951 when Princess Elizabeth, as she then was, came to Portsmouth to open the Nuffield Club, now owned by the University of Portsmouth.

The Nuffield United Services Officers Club, St. Michaels Road, Portsmouth, 1956, four years after it was opened by Princess Elizabeth.

The Nuffield United Services Officers Club, St. Michaels Road, Portsmouth, 1956, four years after it was opened by Princess Elizabeth.

I’ll let her take up the story...

‘It was a hot sunny day and she was driven through the city with the lord mayor in an open top car to cheering crowds.

‘My late husband, then Instructor Lieutenant Paul Stanley RN, was the secretary of the United Services’ hockey club and also played for the Royal Navy and Combined Services.

‘As such he was invited, with myself, to the opening ceremony and the subsequent lunch. We saw the backs of our heads on the newsreel later at the cinema (the Essoldo, Albert Road, Southsea).

‘Princess Elizabeth made a short, rather nervous speech to declare the club open. I believe Prince Philip was away at sea at the time.

‘After lunch I had to leave straight away to relieve my babysitter, and when we went down to the lobby we came across Lord Nuffield all on his own.

‘He shook our hands and asked if we had signed the visitors’ book and presented it to us.

‘So our names appeared directly after Princess Elizabeth’s and Lord Nuffield’s. I wonder where the book is now...’

Rosemary, of Milvil Road, Lee-on-the-Solent, goes on to say that the managers of the club were a retired Commander Branson and his French wife who were friends of the Stanleys from the Rosyth officers’ club the year previously.

She adds: ‘Mrs Branson told us later that Princess Elizabeth was very concerned about the lord mayor, who was bald and had been suffering from the heat.

‘She had suggested he put on his hat, but he had said: ‘‘Oh no ma’am, I can’t with you here’’.

‘And she said to Mrs Branson: ‘‘Poor lord mayor. I wonder how he is’’. It was kind of her to be worried aobut him.

‘We loved the old Nuffield Club. We used it a lot and even stayed there.

‘I used it for lunch when I was a mature student at Portsmouth Polytechnic in the early 1970s.

‘One of our daughters had her wedding reception there in 1974.

‘It was a delightful place and I hope it is appreciated by the university students now,’ Rosemary adds.