William returns to former base to mark end of RAF search and rescue service


The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have said goodbye to the UK's search and rescue helicopter service, which has been formally disbanded after 75 years.

William and Kate returned to the Welsh RAF base where the Duke flew rescue missions with the RAF Search and Rescue (SAR) Force, and attended a ceremony that formally brought the unit's history to a close.

The service has been privatised and is now operated by civilian company Bristow Helicopters after it was awarded the contract by the Department for Transport in 2013.

The Cambridges were just another forces couple when they moved to Anglesey in Wales after the future commander-in-chief of the armed forces joined C Flight, 22 Squadron at RAF Valley in September 2010.

William served a three-year tour with the SAR and during his time qualified as an operational captain taking overall control of the Sea King helicopters.

The Duke - known as Flight Lieutenant Wales - undertook a total of 156 search and rescue operations, resulting in 149 people being rescued.

At the time of the announcement, it was understood William had voiced concerns over the privatisation plans when he met the Prime Minister in Zurich as part of England's 2018 World Cup bid in 2011.

The Duke was dressed in a suit while his wife wore an LK Bennett outfit and they arrived at RAF Valley by helicopter.

Wing Commander Mark Dunlop, known by the nickname Sparky, was William's squadron commander and he welcomed the Duke's return, describing him as "one of the family".

He added: "Prince William was a model serviceman, by which I would say he was disciplined, professional, dedicated but also with a human side and was able to get on well with anyone, which is a neat trick.

"We just don't have room for passengers aboard these aircraft, in the sense if you're part of the operating crew you need to be up to doing your job, and William was not only up to doing it, but even more than that.

"He was Flight Lieutenant Wales, he was a search and rescue captain, he would do all the duties associated with coming on shift.

"He would live and work with his crew, go on rescues with his crew, eat with his crew and he was just another one of the guys."