On the morning of Tuesday November 2 , 1954, forty or so residents of Stoke Poges lined the cricket ground of the Fulmer Research Institute at Holly Hill House in Hollybush Hill to wait expectantly for the Duke of Edinburgh to land in his helicopter.

They were to be disappointed however.

Due to low cloud-cover and greatly reduced visibility the Duke had been obliged to travel from Buckingham Palace by car, increasing the journey time to about an hour.

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The plan for the Duke to pilot the helicopter himself had been carefully rehearsed some week or so before.

A trial landing on the lawn at the back of the Edwardian mansion had not gone well.

First of all the large cross made up of white sheets laid by the wife of the Managing Director of the Institute had been blown away by the down-draft of the helicopter.

Then the ground of the lawn was found to be too soft for safety.

It was therefore decided that the helicopter would land on the cricket ground, but on the day this plan was thwarted by the weather!

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The Duke had been due to arrive at 11 o’clock but by 10.30am word had got round among the people waiting by the cricket ground that he was having to come by car.

The crowd of mostly women and girls then ran along a neighbouring road to be in place at the entrance to the Institute’s grounds to see the Duke arrive.

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More or less at the allotted time the Austin limousine swept through the entrance gates and the Duke alighted, accompanied by his equerry Lt-Commander Michael Parker.

Despite this inauspicious start the visit was a great success.

The Duke was first greeted by the Lord Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire Sir Henry Aubrey-Fletcher, who introduced him to Mr Percy Horsfall the Chairman of the company Almin Ltd who operated the Institute.

Accompanied also by Mr E A G Liddiard, the Director of the Institute, the Duke then toured the laboratories.

Demonstrating the easy, informal style for which he was becoming famous the Duke was soon chatting to the staff, particularly the more junior members, These included laboratory assistants Elizabeth Langley, Derek Lavender, Christopher Page and Pamela Clemson.

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In one laboratory he met the Institute’s Chief Scientist Dr Phillip Gross who had been a Professor at the University of Vienna.

The primary purpose of his visit was to open a new Engineering Laboratory which contained equipment for testing the mechanical properties of metals such as steel.

Here the Duke was on more familiar ground.

The formal opening of the laboratory was accomplished by the Duke operating a machine to break a one-inch diameter steel rod.

This task completed the Duke then sat down to a lunch with a party of guests, who included many of the “captains of industry” who were sponsoring research and development contracts at the Institute. He spoke of the privilege it was to have been shown around the laboratories and thanked the staff for explaining their work so well to him.

Referring to the many industrialists present, the Duke likened them to “a Scotsman who gave his lady-friend a lipstick - because he knew he was going get half of it back again!"

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After the lunch the Duke left the Institute to travel back to Buckingham Palace in order to prepare for his next engagement, which involved an overnight train journey.

This was to the airfield and factory in Lancashire of English Electric, then one of the leading companies in the world engaged in the development and manufacture of the next generation of military aeroplanes.