Royal Visit for the Royal Hospital School to mark 300 Year Anniversary

05 Jul 2013

HRH The Duke of York, KG, visited the Royal Hospital School on Saturday 29 June and was welcomed by more than 2,000 pupils, parents and guests at the Tercentenary Speech Day and Divisions.

As the School’s ‘Official Visitor’, HRH The Duke of York accepted the invitation to be Guest of Honour at Speech Day and the reviewing officer at the final ‘Divisions’ of the academic year.

The achievements of the pupils at the Royal Hospital School were recognised by the Duke during the prize-giving ceremony and a report of the year was delivered by the Headmaster, James Lockwood. The Duke spoke warmly to the pupils giving advice on life beyond school; encouraging them to challenge themselves and telling them to seize every opportunity. Speeches were also heard by the Chairman of the Board of Governors and Deputy Lieutenant of Suffolk, Henry Strutt, and the Heads of School, Oliver Gerard-Pearse and Claire Lambert.

During his visit, HRH The Duke of York also opened the School’s new Heritage Centre which houses a wealth of historic artifacts including the Lord Nelson relics that appeared on the BBC Antiques Roadshow. The Centre also provides excellent archive resources and touch-screen technology to aid teaching and learning. The facility will be open each Wednesday during the term time and available to the wider community on request.

The grand finale of the visit was Divisions or a formal parade. After an exciting fly past by a Hawker Sea Fury, the British fighter aircraft developed for the Royal Navy during the Second World War, the whole School marched in squads, or Houses, to the sound of the band playing Life on the Open Wave, Heart of Oak, Rule Britannia, Land of Hope and Glory and, of course, the National Anthem. The pupils looked impressive in their naval uniforms led by the Chief Petty Officers or ‘Chiefs’ who are school prefects, the Guard gave an outstanding demonstration of weapon handling during the Sunset Ceremony and, as is the tradition, the Year 13 leavers slow marched off as the School gave three cheers for HRH The Duke of York. Later guests were treated to another fly past by a Spitfire while they enjoyed picnics in the School grounds to the sound of the “The Rat Pack”.

In the afternoon, an emotional commemoration service was held in the School’s cathedral-proportioned Chapel after which the Year 13 pupils marked their leaving in the traditional way – ‘Hats Off’ and a tears!

The Royal Hospital School was established nearly 300 years ago to educate the sons of seafarers for a life in the Royal Navy. It was located in Greenwich, London, in the buildings that now house the National Maritime Museum but by the late 1920s it had grown in size and aspiration, and the School relocated to its 200 acre site in Holbrook in 1933. The Tercentenary has been celebrated with a series of events and initiatives: a spectacular Trafalgar Dinner in October, a formal dinner at the Painted Hall in Greenwich in June, a beautiful coffee-table book published at Christmas, a specially commissioned painting of the School by local artist, John Harrison, and the recent opening of the Heritage Centre.

Today the Royal Hospital School retains some of its naval traditions, such as Divisions and unrivalled provision for sailing, but is very much a mainstream independent boarding and day school for boys and girls aged 11 to 18 years.