Portrait of Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent by William Hamilton Mitchell Acton

Presented to the Bucks Battalion by Hortense and Arthur Acton in memory of their son, William Hamilton Mitchell Acton, who died in Italy in August 1945.

William Hamilton Mitchell Acton (1906-45) was born in Florence. He was the son of the prominent art dealer, Arthur Acton, and the younger brother of the author and aesthete, Sir Harold Acton. His mother, Hortense, was an American banking heiress. He was educated at Eton and briefly attended Christ Church, Oxford. He specialised in portraits and pencil drawings of prominent society women such as the Mitford girls. William served as a Private in the Pioneer Corps and died on 31 August 1945 at a military hospital in Italy, ‘after a short illness’. There has been speculation that he committed suicide. He is buried in the family vault in Florence Evangelical Cemetery.

HRH Princess Marina (1906-68) was somewhat unexpectedly appointed Honorary Colonel of the Bucks Battalion by King George VI on 11 May 1938 when Lord Cottesloe already held the appointment. Marina had married Prince George, Duke of Kent in 1934. The couple had moved to Coppins, the former home of Princess Victoria, at Iver in 1935.

The Princess inspected the 1st Bucks Battalion at Newbury on 29 September 1939, the RSM running along behind the ranks ‘directing the spontaneous enthusiasm’. Princess Marina also inspected the battalion at Denbury in August 1941. She unveiled the War Memorial of the 1st Bucks Battalion in St Mary’s, Aylesbury on 11 November 1951.

As with the 1st Bucks Battalion, Princess Marina and Cottesloe were jointly appointed Honorary Colonels of the 2nd Bucks Battalion in July 1941. On 15 May 1943 the 2nd Bucks was visited by Princess Marina, who still wore black in mourning for the death of her husband, the Duke of Kent, in an air crash in August 1942.

The 1st Bucks Battalion instruments lost in 1940 were returned to Aylesbury Drill Hall and were played by the Royal Artillery Band when Princess Marina visited the Bucks Battalion Old Comrades Association on 20 October 1956: four of the 1940 Bucks Battalion Wahagnies bandsmen were on parade with the band.

Upon reconstitution of the TA in 1947, 645 (Bucks) Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment replaced the Bucks Battalion. In 1955, 645 LAA Regiment was re-designated as part of 431 LAA Regiment. Princess Marina had remained Joint Honorary Colonel of 645 LAA with Lord Cottesloe, who died in 1956, and was again Joint Honorary Colonel of 431 alongside Colonel R. N. Guest, formerly Honorary Colonel of 480 HAA, which had merged with 645 to form 431 LAA.

The amalgamation of 299 (RBY, BY & QOOH) Field Regiment and 431 LAA in 1961 gave the new unit – 299 (RBY, QOOH & Berkshire) Field Regiment – three honorary colonels: Princess Marina from 431 LAA, Leonard Tetley from 299 Field Regiment, and Sir Winston Churchill from the Oxfordshire Yeomanry. Guest yielded to Tetley and, although the War Office claimed royalty should not be a factor, it was agreed that Princess Marina would continue, as would Churchill. When Tetley retired in November 1964, he was replaced by Colonel John Thomson, chairman of the Oxfordshire CTAFA. Churchill then died in January 1965. In 1966 when it was known that 299 Field Regiment would be disbanded, Princess Marina expressed her dismay.

In the event, with the demise of 299 (RBY, QOOH & Berkshire) Field Regiment in March 1967, what was now called The Buckinghamshire Regiment was created as a cadre formation in TAVR III. Princess Marina consented to be Honorary Colonel, although she was unable to attend the freedom parade in Aylesbury in October 1967. The Buckinghamshire Regiment was absorbed by the 2 Wessex Regiment in 1971. Princess Marina, however, had died in August 1968.

Between 1938 and 1968, therefore, Princess Marina was Honorary Colonel of the Bucks Battalion, the 1st Bucks Battalion, the 2nd Bucks Battalion, 645 (Bucks) LAA Regiment, 431 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, 299 (RBY, QOOH & Berkshire) Field Regiment, and The Buckinghamshire Regiment.


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