Prince Philip’s coup to save his beloved Outward Bound


Revealed: Prince Philip’s boardroom coup to save his beloved Outward Bound … and how he told guests at a fundraising campaign, ‘This is a shed – and we’re here to brighten you up’

  • Prince Philip staged a coup to become chairman of the Outward Bound Trust
  • Within weeks, he was inviting senior figures to a fundraising campaign at Buckingham Palace
  • He joked: ‘This is like a top-notch shaving stable and we’re here to braid you’

The Duke of Edinburgh staged an extraordinary coup in the boardroom to save a charity set up by his former rector at Gordonstoun, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

When he learned that The Outward Bound Trust was about to go bankrupt, he unexpectedly arrived at an emergency council meeting in Oxford.

Enraged at the prospect of a charity of which he was a patron closing down, Prince Philip removed the chairman and assumed the role himself.

He then fired the chief executive and many of the trustees before telling the baffled meeting, “Our mission is clear. We must continue to save this great organization. ‘

Within weeks, the Duke had invited senior business figures to a fund-raising dinner at Buckingham Palace’s Chinese Dining Room.

The Duke of Edinburgh throws a spear on a visit to the Outward Bound Sea School in Wales, watched by some boys in July 1949

According to several attendees, the prince joked to his guests, “This is like a top-notch shaving stable and we’re here to brighten you up.”

The charity, which offers adventure expeditions for young people, has not only survived but thrived. Today it welcomes 25,000 young people a year through the doors of its activity centers.

Recalling the Duke’s intervention at the 1993 meeting, Lord Kirkham, owner of the DFS furniture empire and a trustee at the time, said: ‘It was almost like a comic script. We had these three accountants who, one after the other, provided all these reports and charts and predictions that said the charity could not survive.

“I remember the last accountant telling us,” Without any reservation or ambiguity, I recommend rolling back or preferably closing the organization. ” Prince Philip thanked them and they left the meeting. Then he said, “That’s for sure, isn’t it?” Everyone looked downcast and serious. Then he said, “That is certain. We have to save The Outward Bound Trust. “‘

The Duke asked the then-chairman of the charity, Jim Swaffield, who was Director General of the Greater London Council, to resign and appointed retired Army Major General Sir Michael Hobbs as the new chief executive.

Mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington, the charity’s deputy patron, said: “I had just been hired and saw him in action. He was the best chair I’ve ever come across. ‘

The rescue was a personal mission for the Duke, who died earlier this month at the age of 99. The charity was co-founded in 1941 by Kurt Hahn, headmaster of the Gordonstoun School in Moray, Scotland, and had a profound impact on the young Philip’s life. .

The Duke of Edinburgh shares a joke with Bruce Forsyth at the Outward Bound Awards in 1993

The Duke of Edinburgh shares a joke with Bruce Forsyth at the Outward Bound Awards in 1993

Fundraising was crucial to the plan, with the Duke hosting a series of high-profile dinners. Lord Kirkham said the Duke had made it clear to guests that a hefty tip would be required at the end of the meal.

“He never made anything of it,” he added. ‘He was very honest. He didn’t gild things. He was honest about what he wanted.

It felt like a great privilege to go along and he would tell you how important the charity’s work is and how you would be fulfilled by supporting it – and it made you feel great. There is no doubt that he saved the cause. ‘

By the time the Duke stepped down as Chairman in 1999, the charity had not only settled its £ 3 million debts but also paid off mortgages on its operations centers in Wales, the Lake District and the Highlands.

Prince Philip then resumed his role as patron until his retirement in 2019.

Nick Barrett, the charity’s current CEO, said, “Without his intervention, Outward Bound wouldn’t be here today and we are extremely grateful to him for that alone.”