A portrait of life as a royal chauffeur in the
WE have to thank Bugle reader Peter Edwards for bringing to our attention another fascinating story connected with the Field family of Wolverhampton.
Peter became friends with Ken Field when they both worked at Guy Motors and after being taken ill during his retirement Ken asked Peter to become custodian of his family history, stories and artefacts that were associated with his father Henry, his uncle Fred and himself. Sadly Ken died in 2003 but Peter was keen to tell these stories on his behalf.
In Bugle 1366 we published the story about Henry Field and his First World War exploits, having received despatches and a signed certificate in 1919 from the War Minister at the time, Winston Churchill. Henry’s brother Fred, who was born in Compton Road, also served in the First World War for the Air Force and after his safe return worked at Bantock House and then for the Earl of Dudley as a chauffeur. It is common knowledge that the Earl of Dudley was very close to the Royal Family, and the Earl’s home at Himley House had been offered as a honeymoon destination for The Prince George and Princess Marina in the autum of 1934. After their marriage they were conferred with the title Duke and Duchess of Kent and during that time Fred was poached to become their offcial chauffeur, after a recommendation from the Earl of Dudley no doubt.
Fred must have been privy to many sensational episodes in the life of the Royals in the decade leading up to the Second World War, in particular the abdication of the Duke of Kent’s elder brother Edward VIII. In newspaper cuttings that Peter had sent with a splendid photograph of the Duke of Kent arriving at a function in 1938, Fred Field having just driven him to his destination and looking on from behind, gave the following details:
“Freddie Field, the man who drove the Duke of Windsor at the time of his abdication, has decided it’s time to retire. Right now 65 year old Freddie, who claims to have driven various members of the Royal Family nearly half a million miles during his 30 years’ service, is chauffeur to the Duchess of Kent.”
Another read: “Driving the Duchess of Kent during her tour of Shropshire was the duchess’s Wolverhampton born chauffeur, Frederick Field, who has been driving members of the Royal Family for 29 years. Mr Field was born in a house opposite Wolverhampton Grammar School, Compton Road, and as a young man served his apprenticeship at the old Star Engineering works in Frederick Street. He later became driver to the Prince of Wales, now Duke of Windsor, and then to the Duke and Duchess of Kent.
“Mr Field joined King Edward VIII during the abdication crisis and drove him from Fort Belvedere to Windsor when he made his famous abdication broadcast to the nation. He also drove the King from Windsor Castle to Portsmouth where the King boarded the destroyer HMS Fury to leave for France.”
Fred and his Rolls Royce with the Distictive Duke of Kent registration number YR 11 seen here at Kensington Palace in 1957
Prince Michael, Princess Alexandra and Fred Field circa 1945
Duchess of Kent with Fred Field
Kent in 1934