Nostalgia: Large crowd for Queen’s polo trip

The Queen pictured with Earl Mountbatten and Lord Cowdray during an interval at the polo in 1963
The Queen pictured with Earl Mountbatten and Lord Cowdray during an interval at the polo in 1963

FIFTY years before the royal birth, the Queen was heading to Cowdray to watch her husband be defeated at polo.

Prince Philip’s team was beaten in a semi-final, however most of the attention was on the head of state’s visit.

The plane pictured after the crash landing on the playing field

The plane pictured after the crash landing on the playing field

The Midhurst and Petworth Times reported on July 19, 1963: “The Queen saw an exciting day’s polo at Cowdray Park on Sunday. Making a private visit she became, as usual, the centre of attraction of a large crowd, and she also had to put up 
with rain.

“Spectators stood outside the members’ enclosure more than ten-deep in the interval, a silent, staring semi-circle watching the Queen sitting on the front row with Lord and Lady Cowdray and Earl Mountbatten.

“This did not seem to worry the Queen as she chatted with her companions, although it was some time before the police acted to move the spectators.

“The rain was an eventuality the Queen was well prepared for.

“After tea in a specially red-carpeted tent – next to the press tent – the Queen noticed it was raining, and her detective quickly fetched a blue, belted raincoat with a hood, which 
she wore over a blue suit instead of a light, mustard-coloured duster coat.”

Before tea the Queen watched Prince Philip’s team Windsor Park lose 11-5 to La Vulci, a team from Rome, in the semi-final of the Cowdray Park Gold Cup.

“Prince Philip played an energetic game, but he did not score, missing several shots,” the paper reported.

After the Duke of Edinburgh’s game, he joined the Queen and the Cowdray party to watch the other semi-final.

He had arrived earlier in the day in his sports car to get some ‘loosening-up practice’ before the game.

The royal couple had spent the weekend at the home of Earl Mountbatten in Romsey, Hampshire.

The Queen arrived later in the day with the earl.

The paper’s report concluded: “The Royal party watched with great interest until the final bell, when the Queen left with the Earl Mountbatten and the Duke popped into the members’ bar for refreshment.”

Also in July of that year, 
the Bognor Regis Observer reported on an emergency plane landing.

A pilot and his two passengers escaped injury after the light aircraft struck the bank of a ditch while making the landing on the large playing field between the William Fletcher School and Bognor Regis Grammar School (the two schools now form The Regis School).

The paper reported: “They had been flying at 1,000 feet above the town when the engine of the four-seater Miles Messenger aircraft failed.

“The nearest and most suitable large open space proved to be the campus off Westloats Lane, and the pilot and owner of the aircraft, 43-year-old Mr George Gibson, of Wheeler End, High Wycombe, guided the machine towards safety.

“All went well until the pilot was suddenly faced with an unavoidable obstacle in his path – the deep ditch separating the playing fields of the two 

“The aircraft struck the far bank of the ditch – severely damaging its undercarriage and a wing – slewed round, and came to a rest a short distance from the Grammar School’s tennis courts.”

It all happened within about 90 seconds. The plane had been flying from Sandown to Shoreham.

Cricketers at Nyewood Lane were temporarily distracted when the plane passed overhead.

“We thought it would not reach the Lec airfield, where we presumed the pilot intended to land,” said Bognor player Mr Maurice Cowell.

“We heard the engine spluttering as the aircraft passed over the cricket ground.

“It suddenly banked to its left and dived down just over the rooftops towards the school playing fields,” he said.

The three men were examined by a doctor at the Bognor War Memorial Hospital, before continuing on their journey to Shoreham.

The aircraft was dismantled and removed from the playing field.