(First Printed in the Telegraph – 7th March 2011)
But a former shipmate has disclosed that the Prince suffered from such a bad case of seasickness that he captained his vessel with a bucket by his side.
Michael Sinker was a chef on board HMS Bronington, which the Prince commanded for nine months in 1976. They met again recently when the Prince hosted a reunion party at Clarence House for his old crew.
Reminiscing about their days at sea, Mr Sinker, 58, said: “Charles was brilliant. When you got him to sea without his bodyguards he was just like one of the rest of the crew, though he wasn’t a very good sailor and he was seasick, as were a lot of us. If it was rough he would go on the bridge with a bucket!
“She was a wooden minesweeper of only 350 tons – at that weight she used to roll, and once we started rolling Prince Charles was sick like the rest of us. We were – excuse the pun – all in the same boat.
“There was quite a bit of apprehension before he came on board because of who he was, but once he was on board he was treated with respect just like any captain.”
The Prince began his naval career in 1971, completing a course at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth and following in the footsteps of his father, grandfather and both his great-grandfathers. His nine months as commander of HMS Bronington were his last in the Navy.
HMS Bronington was then based at Rosyth, Fife, but is now rotting in Vittoria Dock, Birkenhead.
Mr Sinker’s wife, Marion, was instrumental in organising the reunion after she came across a video of the ship on YouTube.
“My wife and I met when I was on the ship, we started out as penfriends and have been married now for 33 years. So when she saw the state of the Bronington she cried her eyes out,” Mr Sinker said.
“She’s listing to one side, there’s water coming through the lower decks, the top decks are all rotted. It’s such a shame. My wife said, ‘What if we write to Prince Charles and ask if he knows about the state of the ship?’ Then everything snowballed and Prince Charles suggested the reunion.”
Mr Sinker tracked down many of his former crew mates via the Forces Reunited website and Navy News, and around 30 people attended the Clarence House reception on February 24.
He said: “It was like turning the clock back. We had a good old natter and the Prince chatted with everybody. He mentioned at the reunion that he liked cucumber and Marmite sandwiches with the crusts cut off. It was like we were all back on the ship again.”
Mr Sinker, from Sidford, Devon, also recalled that he and the Prince had a beard-growing contest while on board the Bronington, which the Prince won.
The Prince was so delighted to be back in the company of his former crew that he reportedly took them for a drink at a pub close to Clarence House when the reception ended. He also presented each man with an embossed wallet as a gift.
(Article buy Anita Singh first printed in the Telegraph, 7th March 2011)