Edward, Prince of Wales

With the prospect of war looming Edward was 20 years old and keen to participate. He had joined the Grenadier Guards in June 1914, and although he was willing to serve on the front lines, Secretary of State for War Lord Kitchener refused to allow it, citing the immense harm that would occur if the heir to the throne were captured by the enemy. In 2008 a letter written by Edward came to light and reveals his frustration at being held back from the fighting. The prince wrote to his friend Captain Faussett: 'As you may imagine mine is a most rotten position in wartime. I hold commissions in both services and yet I'm not allowed to fight. Of course I haven't got a proper job which is very painful to me and I feel I am left too much in a glass case. I long to be taking my chance in the trenches with my brother officers and in fact all able bodied Englishmen. But both seem to be impossible, so I have to carry on here at GHQ, attached to Divisions from time to time when all is quiet. It's a dull, monotonous life. This is a most rotten war unless you are actually fighting. It's a rotten war altogether and the sooner it ends the better for everyone concerned' Despite this, Edward witnessed trench warfare first-hand and attempted to visit the front line as often as he could, for which he was awarded the Military Cross in 1916. His role in the war, although limited, made him popular among veterans of the conflict. Edward undertook his first military flight in 1918 and later gained a pilot's licence.

The Prince in France

The caption to these photos from Wilson's The Great War reads: 'The Prince being shown the way by a British cavalry soldier in a French town, and (centre) his Royal Highness with an officer friend amid the snow on the western front. Right: The Prince, visiting one of the British base hospitals in France, has a chat with one of the nurses.'

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by Stephen Luscombe