The Queen’s former Bargemaster turned 102 on Wednesday and can look back on an amazing life of heroism and service.
For 12 years, D-Day veteran Major Ted Hunt was a familiar figure as the Queen’s Bargemaster, in his scarlet tunic and black cap, at major royal and state occasions.
His duties included escorting visiting heads of state and being responsible for transporting the crown at state openings of Parliament.
And although the years have past one thing has not changed for Ted. His undying and unwavering loyalty from her to Her Majesty.
Ted, who now lives in a care home at Worthing, West Sussex, met the Queen more than 100 times and cherishes some wonderful memories.
He is full of admiration for how she has handled the death of her husband Prince Philip in April.
He said: “The Queen’s duty and self discipline has meant she will carry on as long as the job needs to be done.”
A favorite meeting with the Queen was after his 1978 appointment as Bargemaster, when he and his late wife Vera, who married in 1942, were at a Christmas staff party at Buckingham Palace.
The two women found common ground. Philip had had a distinguished career in the Navy and Ted, an ex-lighterman on the river Thames, had commanded 15 vessels at Gold Beach for the D-Day landings.
He said: “The Queen came in from her own party and danced to Joe Loss and his band. Her signature tune was In the Mood.
“Her own party was behind closed doors with the rest of the Royal Family, but when she came to join us, she was unaccompanied.
“The band leader stopped whatever he was playing to a halt and started playing We Are Sailing.
“She came straight over to my wife and me. She said: ‘You are my new Bargemaster, but do forgive me, I ca n’t remember your name from her’. I said: ‘I’m Edwin Hunt, known as Ted and this is my wife Vera.’
“’Ah yes, she said, you’re a lighterman.’ She said to Vera, ‘I know you have children.
“You must have been worried when it was choppy on the water and you didn’t know when he was going to get in. I’ve been a naval man’s wife, I know that feeling.”
“My wife was so pleased, she was a baker’s daughter from Essex chatting to the Queen at a party.
“The next day we rang up the children and she joked, ‘I was chatting to the Queen only last night, actually’.
“The Queen always did her homework. She knew when people were presented to her, they would be tongue-tied. She put people at ease.”
He also described Her Majesty as “very chatty” although this has not always been appreciated.
Chuckling, he recalled what happened when Pietro Annigoni was painting her portrait.
He said: “While he was painting her, he said to the Queen she is a chatterbox. She’d talk to him all the time.
“He said, ‘Could you stop talking for a moment ma’am, I want to capture your upper lip’. She said, ‘It’s been years since someone told me to shut up’.
The next time he came, she sat there and didn’t say a word.”
Ted also remembered traveling in the back of a carriage with Princess Anne, her then husband Mark Phillips, Princess Margaret and Prince Andrew.
He said: “It was a summer’s day, there was always a blanket to use. When I got aboard Margaret said they would like blankets to cover their dresses.
“She said, ‘If we drive across the cobbles, it raises a lot of dust.’
“I wasn’t prepared, so I had to go and fetch them. I handed one to Anne’s husband, he did the unfolding.
“On the way back, I passed them all blankets to cover them as soon as they stepped in. Princess Anne joked, ‘It didn’t take so long this time, Bargemaster.’”
Born in Canning Town, East London, in 1920 to a “river family” whose heritage dates back to the 17th century, Ted was apprenticed as a Thames waterman and lighterman.
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In the Second World War, Ted enlisted with the Royal Engineers and served at the Battle of Narvik in Norway.
He later worked in London and East Anglia, preparing defenses in case of a German invasion.
By D-Day he was a captain commanding 15 rhino ferries – landing tanks, guns, vehicles and supplies vital to the success of the Allied invasion of occupied France. From there he worked on the engineering of water crossings in the Netherlands.
He was demobbed as a major and in 1947 the couple moved from Thaxted in Essex to Eltham, South East London.
Ted became a college lecturer in navigation and watermanship at City and East London College in London from 1948 until 1985.
In 1990, I retired from royal service as a Member of the Royal Victorian Order.
His loyalty to the Royal Family is still apparent. Speaking of royal life, he said: “I feel things done in private were done in a free and easy way and it is not for me to blow the gaff.”
Even over the Prince Andrew Epstein scandal, he is confident the Queen knows her son and has done the right thing.
“She knows the man rather better than I. I believe the she will behave correctly. In this country, a man is innocent until he is proven guilty.
“People have made judgments long before the truth has come out, which is most unfair.”
And on Harry leaving the Royal Family, he said: “The Queen probably views it a long way away from how the press think she views it.
“The Queen’s grandchildren are far removed from her in their thinking.
“My five grandchildren all have degrees, but my two grandfathers started working at the age of nine on the river. The generations are very different.”