The young King Charles arrived at Dartmouth’s Britannia Royal Naval College driving his Aston Martin, which promptly broke down as he was approaching the main doors and had to be pushed the final few yards.

The 22-year-old Prince of Wales enrolled on an accelerated graduates course at the town’s naval college on 15 September 1971 as an acting sub-lieutenant.

Dr Jane Harrold, BRNC’s curator, told South Hams Newspapers: “He wasn’t here for very long, just six weeks, although within that time he created quite a few anecdotes, the most famous of which is something of a legend in Dartmouth. He is alleged to have ridden a motorbike along the main corridor, to be greeted outside the chapel by the rather disapproving captain’s wife.”

The young prince also started a new royal tradition at the college. Dr Harrold explained: “He signed the ceiling of the ward room on the top of a human pyramid. Today, there are only four signatures on the ceiling, one of which is his along with his two brothers’ and Prince William’s.”

Before leaving, HRH presented the college with a silver trophy of Britannia etched with the Prince of Wales feathers. Said Dr Harrold: “It’s on display in a very esteemed position, at the top of the steps to the Senior Gun Room alongside the Lord Nelson trophy and oppposite the full dress uniform of King George VI.”

King Charles returned to the college numerous times to take passing out parades and plant a tree in the captain’s garden, where his parents were famously photographed together for the first time.

Dr Harrold said: “It’s generally agreed among his former shipmates that he was good to serve with, that he had no airs and graces and was easy to get on with.

“We would absolutely welcome him back as king and would be very enthusiastic to see another of our alumni as monarch, as both his grandfather and great grandfather were.”