Sussex-born man says photo with young Princess Elizabeth II was 'life-changing'

Princess Elizabeth visiting Chailey Heritage. Credit: Ignite PR & Engagement

A man who was born in Sussex has described how a photo taken of him as a baby with young Princess Elizabeth II completely changed the course of his life.

While millions of people from around the world watched the late Queen Elizabeth’sfuneral - more than 10,000 miles away in Australia - Maurice Occleshaw was remembering his very special connection with the monarch.

A black and white photograph taken on a visit to Chailey Heritage in Sussex shows the young princess cradling a tiny baby. That baby was Maurice and it was an encounter withroyalty that would change his life.

Maurice was being cared for at Chailey Heritage in a special unit for babies who had been orphaned or displaced by the Blitz. His mother was recovering from tuberculosis (TB) and his father was serving in the Royal Navy on-board HMS Sussex.

Maurice, now aged 77 said: “I am not sure of the date I arrived there, but when I was six months old, the Queen Mother and the two Princesses came to visit the hospital at Chailey Heritage.

"It was assumed that I was crying in my cot, and as the Princess Elizabeth was passing, shepicked me up to stop me crying, and nursed me in her arms briefly”.

Maurice Occleshaw, now aged 77 lives in Melbourne, Australia Credit: Ignite PR & Engagement

The Queen Mother was Patron of Chailey Heritage School from 1940 until 2002. In June 1945, she was accompanied by her two daughters, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret.

During this visit, Princess Elizabeth was shown the Baby Clinic at Chailey Heritage which, by Royal permission, was named after her - "Princess Elizabeth Clinic for Tiny Babes".

The image of the Princess and the baby, taken by a Daily Mirror photographer, was seenaround the world. And it was to change the course of Maurice’s life.

The photograph was spotted by a Mr. Alfred Occleshaw in Victoria, Australia - no relation to Maurice and his family.

“After making enquiries, he started sending food parcels to my parents after the war, Maurice said.

My father and he had much correspondence, as my dad was trying to develop our familytree. Alfred offered to sponsor our family as migrants to Australia. But the governmentof Australia would not allow us to go because of my mum’s ongoing TB health problem,which she unfortunately succumbed to in 1952.

"Some years later after my dad remarried, we were finally accepted as migrants to Australia, and arrived there in 1958 aboard the SS Strathnaver”.

But before Maurice emigrated to Australia, he was to have one more encounter with herlate Majesty, who was by then The Queen: “She opened the Cutty Sark in Greenwich in 1954, where I was on parade as a member of the St. John Ambulance brigade. I was only about three yards from her, and would have loved to tell her I was the baby in her arms back in 1945, but I thought I’d better not. Now that she has gone, I only wish that I had the chance to tell her it was me in the photo”.

Credit: Chailey Heritage foundation

Helen Hewitt, Chailey’s Chief Executive, said: “Maurice’s story has touched the hearts of everyone at Chailey, and I would like to thank him for getting in touch with us and recounting his memories. We had a huge response to the images of Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth and her Chailey connections, which we were delighted to be able to share.

"Like so many others we will cherish our connections with the Queen”.

Maurice, who now lives in Melbourne said he's never forgotten Chailey or the chance encounter with a Princess that changed the course of his life.

"I hope this story will inspire other people to also donate to this brilliant organisation, and I hope it will continue to carry on its work for another 100 years”.