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When Prince Philip visited the German Maritime Museum


When Prince Philip visited the German Maritime Museum

The British people commemorated their late Prince Philip last Saturday with gun salutes and the ringing of bells. A concert of beeps also rang through Bremerhaven on 25 May 1978 as the Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen stepped off the BRITANNIA and made their way to the German Maritime Museum (DSM). A look back at a royal visit and a final farewell to the Prince Consort, ship lover and former naval officer.

He always let her go first, respectfully keeping his distance from the world's most famous monarch. On 9 April 2021, Prince Philip died at the age of 99. On the occasion of the funeral service on Saturday, 17 April, it is worth taking a look back to 25 May 1978, when the Prince Consort in particular, with his enthusiasm for maritime things, got his money's worth in Bremerhaven and the DSM. On the afternoon of this May day, the yacht BRITANNIA docks at Columbuskaje. A look at the programme promises an unprecedented welcoming ceremony with a parade of flagged ships and a historical excursion around shipping at the DSM.

At 3 p.m. on the dot, the lines are tied, the snow-white gangway is put in place and the red carpet is rolled out on it: in front of the eyes of thousands of people waving from the shore and on the water from many ships, Prince Philip and the Queen step off the ship onto the pier. They wave with courtly distance and drive away leisurely in the motorcade - befitting their status in the new dark red Rolls-Royce.

In front of the DSM, a sea of people wave small Union Jacks and crowd closely to catch glimpses of the royal couple. Children climb the rigging of the climbing cog in the playground to survey the crowds. The atmosphere on this Nordic-fresh May afternoon is maritime, warm and cheerful. A naval choir belts out "Rolling Home" and "What Shall We Do With A Drunken Sailor" and welcomes the royals with a touch of British humour. Dörte Behrmann, now press officer at Erlebnis Bremerhaven, was 14 years old at the time and remembers the fever that gripped Bremerhaven long before the state-bearing event. "We had read in the newspaper weeks before that the Queen and Prince Philip were coming. Even the adults were excited and for me as a teenager it was something absolutely outstanding that I had never experienced before." For a long time she persevered on the level of the current extension building, waiting to see the royal couple live. "We stood disciplined on the pavement and then this huge car drove slowly past. I could see the Queen very clearly through the big windows."

Before the museum tour, the official act is on the agenda: In the shade of a blue-white-red bouquet of flowers, the Golden Book of the City of Bremerhaven and the guest book of the DSM lie open. Juan Carlos, the King of Spain, has already immortalised himself in the latter. DSM Director Dr Detlev Ellmers welcomes the distinguished guests and guides Elizabeth II through the show. While his wife listens to the English explanations, the scion of German-Greek nobility follows the conversations in German. Both delve into nautical charts, inspect ship models, linger longer at the fishing panorama and inquire about the whereabouts of the yacht HOHENZOLLERN.

As a man of the highest military ranks, the naval department magically attracts the former officer. In particular, he takes a close look at the two-man submarine SEEHUND. The highlight of the tour is the walk around the Bremen cog from 1380, the best-preserved wreck of the Middle Ages. At that time - 16 years after the spectacular discovery in the Weser - it is still in a very early stage of conservation work when Elizabeth and Philip marvel at the former merchant ship. It was only four years later that the cog was put on display in a tank with transparent panes and preserved with the artificial wax polyethylene glycol. It remains there for 18 years before it can leave the conservation bath in the year 2000.
The Queen - ruler of a seafaring people - is impressed by the Bremen cog. Prince Philip wants to know exact details about the construction and salvage. It is said that he would have preferred to board the wreck and take a much closer look. He has to subordinate himself to the strict schedule - the former naval commander remains the eternal second in the order of precedence next to the Queen. Wolfram Scheer, who documented the visit as a photographer, also noticed this: "He played second fiddle and always stayed five steps behind the Queen. She was the focus, you could tell. I also remember that he spoke German."

And yet Prince Philip can briefly step out of the monarch's shadow in Bremerhaven and pursue his passion for maritime things: The Duke of Edinburgh has his own plans for the evening, which remind him of his naval career and deployment in the Second World War. As an 18-year-old, he first served on the British warship HMS RAMILLIES and later on numerous other ships. In the early evening, he therefore visits the destroyer HESSEN. Close at his side - Wolfhard Scheer, as his photo shows. "Back then, there was not yet such a safety mindset as there is today. As a photographer, I was five metres away from the royals' car on the Columbus Quay, and on the bridge of the HESSEN I got pretty close to Prince Philip." So the Duke is having his very own moment, standing in the centre of the photo and enjoying the attention of those involved.

Farewell, Prince Philip.

Press Contact

Thomas Joppig

+49 471 482 07 832

Prince Philip at the Columbus Quay during the tour of the destroyer HESSEN in Bremerhaven

Photo: Wolfhard Scheer


State visit of the British Queen Elizabeth II to Bremerhaven and Bremen. At the reception in the German Maritime Museum, Prince Philip signs the Golden Book of the City of Bremerhaven. Queen Elizabeth II in conversation with Bremerhaven's Lord Mayor Bodo Selge.

Photo: Ursula Borucki, SKB-Bremen photo archive

State visit of the British Queen Elizabeth II to Bremerhaven and Bremen. Reception at the German Maritime Museum. On the left behind Queen Elizabeth is her husband Prince Philip.

Photo: Ursula Borucki, SKB-Bremen photo archive

The royal couple travelled to Bremerhaven in May 1978 on the state yacht BRITANNIA and moored at Columbuskaje.

Photo: DSM photo archive


The Queen and the then DSM Director Dr Detlev Ellmers on a tour of the museum.

Photo: DSM photo archive


The Queen getting out of the royal Rolls-Roys.

Photo: Wolfhard Scheer

In front of the DSM: After the tour, the Queen leaves the museum accompanied by Bremen's Mayor Hans Koschnick and Bremerhaven's Lord Mayor Bodo Selge.

Photo: Hanna Taube / Photo archive SKB-Bremen

Opening hours

Cog hall: daily from 10 am to 6 pm

Ships: daily 10 am to 5:45 pm

how to reach us

Deutsches Schifffahrtsmuseum
Hans-Scharoun-Platz 1
D-27568 Bremerhaven


T. +49 471 482 07 0

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