23rd June 1949

Princess Elizabeth opened Guernsey’s hospital

In June 1949, Princess Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, embarked on their first sea trip since their marriage. Travelling on the battleship HMS Anson, their destination was the Channel Islands.

Being the closest to the mainland, they headed initially for Alderney, but their arrival was delayed by fog. However, the queen-to-be still had time to address the local crowd upon her arrival. She commiserated on their treatment during the occupation, during which Alderney’s entire population had been evacuated.

The party took a circular trip via Jersey and Sark to Guernsey, peforming several official duties on the way. In Sark, the Duke of Edinburgh had opened the island’s new Maseline Harbour.

Arrival on Guernsey

The royal couple crossed from Sark to Guernsey in a motor torpedo boat, their battleship having been kept away from Sark by rough sea. They were met in Guernsey by the Bailiff and Lieutenant-Governor who took them to a reception at Saumarez Park. As reported by The Guardian,

…replying to an address from the Bailiff, Mr AJ Sherwill, [the princess] said: “Here on this June day my husband and I see with admiration the work which you have done to blot out the ugly relics of war and to restore to Guernsey the peace, prosperity and happiness which are her right and her tradition through the centuries.

They then moved on to the hospital. Here, Princess Elizabeth used a specially-designed key to open the building, which she named the Princess Elizabeth Hospital. It has kept that name to this day.

The hospital was constructed around Le Vauquiedor Farm, which the States had purchased for £6500. The old hospital in town was later repurposed as the police headquarters.

Centred on Sark

It seems that the visit may have been inspired by a request from Sibyl Hathaway, the Dame of Sark.

She had written to the Royal Household asking if the Duke of Edinburgh would be available to open her island’s new harbour. He replied that he would be delighted, and suggested that he come in November 1948. However, the Dame pointed out that sea and weather conditions would have been unpleasant at that time of year, so the official opening was pushed back to June 1949.

The Duke’s letter of acceptance included a second pleasant surprise: Princess Elizabeth would accompany him.

Thus, it may well be that had the Dame not requested a royal opening for her new harbour, Guernsey may not have had one for its hospital, either.

The visit almost ended in disaster. As Sibyl Hathaway wrote in her autobiography, Dame of Sark,

…the boat carrying the royal party arrived at the harbour steps. The Princess [future Queen Elizabeth II] had some difficulty in landing, because the boat was still rocking, but after a moment’s hesitation she made up her mind to jump for it. As she did so, she all but slipped. It was a terrible moment for those of us who were watching, but the Government Secretary, Major-General RF Colwill, who was standing on the steps, caught her just in time. She recovered at once…


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Other events that occured in June

Cricketer Charles Grieve died in Shropshire 1st
St Johns undertook its first Guernsey rescue 2nd
Bailiff John Guille died in Plymouth 3rd
GUNS writer Joseph John Gillingham was deported 4th
First arrests were made at Guernsey Airport 5th
Jethou was put on the market 6th
The king and queen celebrated Guernsey’s liberation 7th
Occupying forces confiscated Guernsey’s radios 8th
Guernsey Railway company ceased operations 9th
Guernsey welcomed its first steam ship 10th
Laura Kennington kicks off Channel Islands triathlon 11th
Dame Sibyl became a dame again 12th
Guernsey voted to legalise local abortions 13th
Victor Hugo’s house is opened to the public 14th
The Channel Islands were demilitarised 15th
Guernsey was invaded by Colorado beetles 16th
States Telephone Department was established 17th
Pollet guest house fire claimed its third victim 18th
Aurigny founder Derrick Bailey died 19th
Guernsey joined the Football Association 20th
Guernsey’s school children were evacuated 21st
Guernsey celebrated Queen Victoria’s jubilee 22nd
Princess Elizabeth opened Guernsey’s hospital 23rd
Guernsey chose England over France 24th
First meeting of Guernsey’s Controlling Committee 25th
Guernsey bought Fort Grey from the War Office 26th
Guernsey coffee trader William Le Lacheur died 27th
G-JOEY completes his last flight 28th
Guernsey suffered its first and only air raid
The Star was published for the first time 29th
Two deserters were shot after landing on Guernsey 30th