On Wednesday 9 July Westminster Abbey dedicated a memorial to Admiral Arthur Phillip RN, founder of New South Wales and eminent former pupil of the Royal Hospital School, to mark the 200th anniversary of his death.
Although not widely known in the UK, Admiral Phillip (1738-1814) is admired in Australia and, as Commander and Governor-Designate of the First Fleet, he founded New South Wales in 1788, introduced the rule of law and established the new colony in the face of horrendous obstacles.
He was born in the City of London and was educated at the Royal Hospital School, when it was located in Greenwich in the buildings that now house the National Maritime Museum. He spent his adult life, when not away at sea, in Lyndhurst where he owned a farm and he is buried in St Nicholas Church, Bathampton.
Phillip’s leadership of the First Fleet was inspired: all on board were humanely treated and kept healthy, and his navigation to the new colony was superb. His skills as a farmer led him to recognise the huge potential of this new country and he encouraged others to believe in it too. Phillip is considered the architect of modern Australia.
A memorial stone was laid on the floor of the nave of the Abbey close to the Grave of the Unknown Warrior and David Livingstone. Pupils from the Royal Hospital School attended as the Guard of Honour in the presence of HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
Mr Paul Cuddihy, teacher at the Royal Hospital School, accompanied the pupils and said, “It was a tremendous privilege for the pupils and staff to be part of such an important service in honour of Admiral Sir Arthur Phillip, the first Governor of New South Wales. The pupils were proud to provide the Guard Of Honour which involved flanking the entrance to the Abbey and greeting important guests as they entered the service, including the current Governor of New South Wales. Some of the pupils even found themselves engaging in conversation with HRH The Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, who spotted their Duke of Edinburgh Award badges. During the service, Cesca Morelli presented a wreath to HRH The Prince Phillip who laid it next to the beautifully carved memorial stone. Following the service, there was a reception in New College gardens behind the Abbey. The pupils were a big attraction and found themselves talking to lots of interesting people on a gorgeous summer’s day. In his closing speech, the Dean of the Abbey thanked the pupils for bringing so much youth and enthusiasm to the service. It was particularly fitting that the event marked Mr Snoddon’s last official ceremonial duty, as his very first one was in 1971, also at Westminster Abbey, as a smart young man lining up to form a Guard of Honour himself!”