Duke of Sussex hands green berets to newly-qualified marines

The Duke of Sussex has handed out coveted green berets to newly-qualified Royal Marines as they completed their final gruelling test.

Harry, who assumed the role of Captain General Royal Marines from the Duke of Edinburgh in December 2017, visited the base of 42 Commando in Bickleigh, Devon, on Wednesday.

He was driven to nearby Dartmoor, where he saluted and clapped as two recruit troops finished their final Commando Test.

The Duke of Sussex carries out a Green Beret presentation during a visit to 42 Commando Royal Marines at their base in Bickleigh (Finnbarr Webster/PA)
The Duke of Sussex carries out a Green Beret presentation during a visit to 42 Commando Royal Marines at their base in Bickleigh (Finnbarr Webster/PA)

The newly-qualified Marines jogged past Harry on the final stretch of their 30-mile march, carrying loads of 45lbs plus their rifles.

Harry presented the Marines with their green berets, which symbolically mark the end of commando training, before posing for a photograph with the group.

He told them: “This is an enormous privilege for yourselves to get the green beret.

“I am fully aware how lucky I am to be wearing the green beret without doing what you’ve done.

“For some of you, this is merely the beginning of a very, very long, very wonderful, hopefully, career of opportunities which you would never get anywhere else.

“Enjoy drill tomorrow but also remember that there are other people that haven’t managed to make it this far.

“No doubt you will have an opportunity to encourage them. Genuinely, huge congratulations.”

Prince Harry meeting 96-year-old Knocker White, a former Royal Marine (Finnbarr Webster/PA)
Prince Harry meeting 96-year-old Knocker White, a former Royal Marine (Finnbarr Webster/PA)

Proud parents and family members were waiting at the finish line, along with former Royal Marines and supporters.

One was 96-year-old Knocker White, a former Second World War Marine who often completes the final three miles of the march with recruits.

Former Royal Marine Gareth Evans, 60, watched as his 25-year-old son Huw was handed his green beret by Harry.

Mr Evans, who retired as a sergeant in 1992, said: “I couldn’t be prouder.

“It has been a long wait but we knew he would get there and he has.”

Marine Evans, from Crediton, Devon, had spent the past two years, two weeks, three days and eight hours training for that moment.

Wearing his green beret for the first time, he said: “It is a long, long time. I am quite emotional.

“It was a really great feeling.”

When asked about the march, he said: “You just get through it, you know what’s waiting for you at the end.”

He said the troop felt “lucky” to have been handed their berets by Harry.

Marine Kieran Castle, 21, from Plymouth, Devon, described the moment he was handed his beret by the prince as “an amazing experience”.

“It is quite hard to put into words how I’m feeling right now, it hasn’t quite sunk in yet,” he said.

“We told him we were exhausted. He said congratulations for our efforts.”

Congratulations to the @RoyalMarines recruits that completed their final Commando Test today 👏 pic.twitter.com/dDgum9oMEk

— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) February 20, 2019

Major General Charlie Stickland, Commandant General Royal Marines, said the visit was “fantastic”.

“A big part of a young man or woman joining the Royal Marines is about finishing the course and winning their green beret,” Maj Gen Stickland told the Press Association.

“It is the culmination of blood, sweat and tears to get to that point.

“For the Captain General to hand them their beret is unbelievably special.”

Maj Gen Stickland said 42 Commando had undergone a “reorientation” and was continue to evolve in terms of the specialist capabilities it provides.

These include joint personnel rescues, which Harry watched a demonstration of after arriving at the base.

Nine Marines carried out a fast rope, where they disembarked from a Merlin helicopter on black ropes.

Supported by Marines keeping watch in a Wildcat helicopter overhead, they reached a stricken F35 pilot a short distance away.

A number of blank rounds were fired after the group came under attack from a number of insurgents.

The Marines and pilot safely boarded the Merlin helicopter, which then departed the area.

Maj Gen Stickland said other capabilities included the complex training of partners, such as special forces, as well as assisting Royal Navy colleagues to board vessels at sea.

Harry’s visit demonstrated “the unparalleled utility of commandos”, he added.

The prince climbed into a Pacific 24 rigid inflatable boat after being invited up by Marines.

He met a number of Marines in a series of tents erected at the base, showcasing the unique capabilities of 42 Commando.

Marine Adam Smith was part of a group of snipers who spoke to Harry about their role.

“It was great to meet him and show him what we are capable of doing,” he said.