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Ex-crown surveyor from Brockenhurst recalls his Land Rover being seized and modified for the Duke on Solomon Islands

ONE of the special touches of Prince Philip's funeral on Saturday was the specially adapted Land Rover that carried his coffin to St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle.

But it is not the first time the Duke of Edinburgh has had one of the vehicles modified – a fact known only too well by a former crown surveyor from Brockenhurst whose vehicle was "seized and transformed" to transport the Royal couple around the Solomon Islands in 1974.

Bill Jackson (93) was seconded to the South Pacific islands by Ordnance Survey in 1973, and only a few months later preparations were being made for a royal visit to Guadalcanal by the Queen, accompanied by the Prince Philip, Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips, and the late Lord Mountbatten.

He recalled: "Arrangements were supervised by the governor of the protectorate, who faced the delicate task of finding suitable transport ashore after disembarkment from the royal yacht Britannia.

"An open-topped vehicle was required, so the departmental Land Rover, which I used for work, was requisitioned and hastily transformed from a grubby green to brilliant, dazzling white gloss.

"A carpeted wooden box was placed on the floor behind the cab, and a temporary hand rail attached to the roof for the royal hand to grasp when negotiating pot-holed roads. The Land Rover was then deemed ready to convey Her Majesty to receive the acclaim of the citizens of Guadalcanal.

"The funny thing was that the guy who converted it was a rather rough Australian who was never all that keen on royalty – but I must say he did a very good job and I expect Prince Philip would have cast a beady eye over it."

The local press, featuring the photo, reported that "minutes later the open vehicle was useless as torrential rain set in for the rest of the day".

A member of the Commonwealth, the Solomon Islands achieved independence in 1978, with the Queen as its head of state, represented by a governor-general.

The Queen and the late Duke, who died on 9th April aged 99, received their first personal Land Rover in 1955 and their collection grew over the years. It is believed the current royal household's total number of Land Rovers stands at more than 30.

A Palace spokesperson said: “The Duke of Edinburgh had a hand many years ago in the design of these vehicles."

Tributes paid locally ahead of the funeral included a crocheted depiction of the duke outside St Mark's Church in Pennington.

"I wanted to celebrate his life and service to the country," said the Rev. Rachel Noel, who has created a series of crochet displays for special events with help from the community.

"We've had a 25ft Christmas tree and life-size nativity scene, local war veteran Bill Matthews, and the Easter story featuring a crochet Ascension Day cloud and Jesus's feet suspended from a tree."

Rev. Rachel added: "The project is helping mental health across the community, giving a reason to keep going out for daily exercise to see the new artwork."

Two yarn figures separated by a two meter ruler can also be seen behind the village's bus stop. They are now holding pints of beer to signal the easing of lockdown restrictions.

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