William and Kate remember newly-wed days as they return to former haunts
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took a trip down memory lane today, visiting old friends in North Wales where they lived after they married.
William and Kate met some of the duke’s former colleagues from when he worked as a search and rescue pilot based at RAF Valley on Anglesey.
The unit has now moved from the island to a new base, HM Coastguard Search and Rescue Caernarfon, on the mainland and is run by Bristow Helicopters, which took over the contract from the military, but still with some of the same crew from William’s time as a helicopter pilot.
William told his old crew that he does miss his old job, which involved flying rescue missions in all kinds of weather and terrain.
Coastguard helicopter winchman Paul Jones and his wife Gemma, were with their son’s, Finlay, 12, and Alex, aged nine, who were much younger the last time Kate and William saw them.
Mr Jones said: “It’s lovely to see him, we worked very closely for three years and then he moved away.
“It was like he’s never been away.”
The royal couple also clambered aboard the Coastguard’s new £30 million Sikorsky S92 helicopter, which replaced Sea King helicopters used during William’s time with the unit.
Both royal visitors sat in the cockpit as they were told about the aircraft’s capabilities and performance during the around 300 or so rescue missions undertaken each year from Caernarfon.
Rich Taylor, a winchman who served with William and met him again today said: “It was great. It was a real honour and privilege. He’s a very nice guy, very engaging, very professional.
“He worked very hard obviously to keep a balance in the world’s he’s within. He was outstanding in his role as a pilot.”
William and Kate also joined a discussion with Coastguard crew members and staff from Wales Air Ambulance, about the mental health challenges that result from working as emergency personnel.
Mr Taylor added: “He’s been involved first hand with some awful situations as anyone who works in this search and rescue or air ambulance will have been, so he knows first hand the effects it can have on people.
“When we worked with William it was a real honour and a privilege and that continues that he’s taken the time out to come and see us and have a look around and catch up again.
“I think like anybody involved in aviation, especially emergency services and support and helping others, it’s a passion, it’s a vocation, so I can understand he does miss it.”
William and Kate spent around 90 minutes at the base before shaking hands and saying goodbyes as they travelled to their next stop on the royal visit at Halen Mon Anglesey Sea Salt, a local business on Anglesey.