In January 1966 Geelong Grammar student David Manton headed to the Gordonstoun School, Scotland, on a rather unique student exchange – unique because the student he was swapping with was Prince (now King) Charles, the heir to the British throne.

Geelong Grammar School Manifold, Perry & Cuthbertson Houses, (1940); H88.18/643

This was big news in Australia with regular reports of Charles’ experiences at an Australian school.

Before he arrived newspapers were outlining security arrangements including a ‘hot line’ telephone link between the school, Melbourne, Canberra and London. Two police detectives were to be stationed at the school during his stay. 1 It was a different, less dangerous time. It is hard to imagine any disclosure of security details today.

His time at Geelong Grammar was mainly spent at the bush campus Timbertop, near Mansfield.

Charles flew into Canberra via Sydney on 30 January 1966. After a few days in the capital he flew to Mangalore airport, and then travelled on to Mansfield by car.

His hut is set right in the bush….[a building at Timbertop]. Herald & Weekly Times Limited collection;  H2004.101/310

Charles arrived in Mansfield on Wednesday 2 February to a

“wildly enthusiastic welcome ….dozens of people reached into the slowly moving car to shake hands with the young prince. “

It was reported that a woman ran excitedly down the flag-bedecked street yelling

“I touched him. I touched him.” 2

Prince Charles at Mansfield … when he left Timbertop for the last time. Herald & Weekly Times Limited collection; H38849/5246 The people of Mansfield enthusiastically greeted and farewelled Charles.

Charles wasn’t quite a regular student. Timbertop was a campus for the middle school cohort (14-15 year olds), Charles was several years older and in his final year of school. He was also continuing to study within the British curriculum (General Certificate of Education) rather than the Victorian matriculation.

In those analogue times Charles could only speak directly to his tutors when he was at the main Corio campus. At Timbertop contact was by mail and telephone.

Rather than share a dormitory he had a room in the single master’s quarters. Senior students Stuart McGregor and then John Burnell attended Timbertop with him during his stay.

The type of study Prince Charles will occupy at Timbertop. Herald & Weekly Times Limited collection; H2004.101/31
Prince Charles – New Guinea tour. Herald & Weekly Times Limited collection; H38849/707 (In May Charles joined a school group that travelled to Papua New Guinea).

Charles had the option of spending one term at Geelong Grammar but chose to stay for two, leaving Australia on 1 August 1966 enroute to Mexico and then to Jamaica where he reunited with his parents at the Commonwealth Games.

Writing later for the Gordonstoun School magazine the Prince highlighted the outdoor activities at Timbertop, including hiking, camping, and rather less enjoyably, chopping wood.

“The first week I was here I was made to go out and chop up logs on a hillside in boiling hot weather. I could hardly see my hands for blisters after that!”

His least favourite activity appears to have been cleaning out the fly traps

“which are revolting glass bowls seething with flies and very ancient meat.” 3

Charles experience at Timbertop was a positive one. While the Australian press and people were interested in his time in Australia, Timbertop allowed him to live more normally and out of the public eye. He has been quoted as saying his time at Timbertop was “the best part of my education – the part I enjoyed most, and have very happy memories of it.” 4

News reel of the Charles leaving for Timbertop, including footage of the school.
  1. Hot line in for Prince Charles The Age 25 January 1966 p.3
  2. Town turns out to cheer schoolboy Prince The Age 3 February 1966, p.3
  3. Beating about the bush: a prince looks at visit The Age 28 October 28, 1966, p.5
  4. Light blue (Geelong Grammar School). September 2022, p.45

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