William and Kate in snowball fight at Christmas party for RAF families

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge found themselves in a snowball fight as they paid a heartfelt tribute to RAF families separated from loved ones over Christmas.

William and Kate could not help themselves and indulged in a little festive fun after staging a Santa's grotto in the grounds of their Kensington Palace home for more than 200 wives, girlfriends, parents and grandparents holding the fort at home.

In the colourful grotto the couple joined dozens of children, who have a parent based at either RAF Coningsby or RAF Marham, as they created crackers, decorated stockings or made chocolate truffles.

Kate told her guests: "William and I just wanted to pass on our huge gratitude to all of you here today.

"Not only are we grateful for you coming here to join our party, but also for the sacrifices you make on a daily basis on behalf of the nation.

"As someone whose husband has served, I know how hard it feels when a loved one leaves home to do the job they've trained for."

Duke of Cambridge
The Duke of Cambridge meets five-year-old Harry O'Grady at Kensington Palace (Richard Pohle/The Times)

The couple are flying to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus on Wednesday where some of the loved ones of the families they met are based, and will take with them a collection of early Christmas presents for the RAF personnel.

Kate went on to highlight how she had some idea how the relatives felt at this time of year as William, a former RAF search and rescue helicopter pilot, had served in the Falklands for six weeks in 2012.

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge host Christmas party for RAF families
Festive fun at Kensington Palace (Richard Pohle/The Times)

She said: "But I can't imagine how it feels when your loved ones are away on active service over Christmas or at those special family moments.

"The absence of people you love must be especially hard at this time of year. William and I, however, hope that today shows, in some small way, how much you are all valued."

"The absence of people you love must be especially hard at this time of year. William and I, however, hope that today shows, in some small way, how much you are all valued." – The Duchess of Cambridge, at today's Christmas Party for @RAFCGY@RAFMarhamMedia families. pic.twitter.com/vtnrMmecin

— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) December 4, 2018

When George Whitefield, co-director of the children's events company Sharky and George which staged the day's entertainment, appeared with a handful of mock snowballs, that was all the encouragement William needed.

He said: "He saw I had some in my hand and he had a little mischievous nod and wink and looked like he wanted one to throw back at us."

As artificial snow fell around them the two me exchanged snowballs and Kate even found herself the target of a playful attack.

Duchess of Cambridge
The Duchess of Cambridge throws a snowball during the party (Richard Pohle/The Times)

Earlier the duchess had chatted to Barrie, 72, and Ann Macdonald, 70, from Manchester who are looking after their five-year-old grandson Harry while his parents are deployed overseas at Christmas.

Their daughter Claire O'Grady and her husband Paul, known as Pablo to the family, are both RAF Wing Commanders based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, home to Typhoon squadrons which deploy to Cyprus and fly operations in support of Op Shader, the UK's contribution to the ongoing campaign against Isis.

William and Kate
William and Kate outside Kensington Palace (Yui Mok/PA)

Mrs Macdonald, who said her son-in-law was at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus while her daughter was in Afghanistan, added: "Kate was asking Harry where his mummy and daddy were and she said to me it's quite a commitment but it was great for the family to have us pulling everything together.

"William said he'd remember Harry's name and mention him to his dad when he saw him in Cyprus."

Her husband said: "We see our main function as giving my daughter and her husband peace of mind. They've got an important job to do and they don't have time to worry about their son."

The couple said they had handed over a present of a bottle of aftershave for William and Kate to take over to Cyprus.

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