The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge paid tribute to British forces stationed overseas this Christmas by delivering presents to a Cyprus military base – and quipped their service was “really Royal Mail”.
William and Kate made a whirlwind visit to the Mediterranean island to honour the sacrifices and commitment of the UK’s military deployed across the globe.
During a Kensington Palace Christmas party on Tuesday, the Cambridges met the families of pilots, senior officers and ground crews from 11 Squadron – a Typhoon fighter unit based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire and flying missions from Cyprus to combat Isis.
And on Wednesday, they arrived at RAF Akrotiri on Cyprus bearing presents from the children, wives and parents from Coningsby invited to the palace event.
As the gifts were handed out in the Sergeant’s mess, Kate turned to some RAF personnel that included Squadron Leader Sarah Waghorn and others and joked about delivering the mail.
Sqn Ldr Waghorn, 34, whose 80-year-old father David Waghorn had met the royals at their Christmas Party, said: “They said their parcel service ‘really was royal mail’.”
William began the visit by thanking the Armed Forces deployed overseas on behalf of the nation.
After meeting air and ground crew from RAF Akrotiri and other forces, the duke said: “Thank you for your commitment and thank you for your sacrifices.
“We are in your debt and Catherine and I feel very lucky to be able to spend time with you today.”
Sqn Ldr Waghorn, a senior engineer who works on Typhoon jets, said: “To have such high profile visitors coming to say thank you is a real honour.
“Yesterday they were all talking about what we do at the party and I guess all the families are proud of what we do and serving.
“It’s sad we won’t be home for Christmas, but to get that personal message from them with the duke and duchess is lovely.”
Wing Commander Paul O’Grady, 42, whose five-year-old son Harry was the star of the show at a party at Kensington Palace, said: “None of us look for any special attention, were just here to do our job.
“But I’m very, very grateful that the Royal Household put that together for our families, because it’s more difficult for the people at home.”
He said about William and Kate: “For them to come out here and recognise the service, it goes to show that the work the men and women are doing is still valued.”
Troops stationed at the air base will receive goody bags containing small treats like chocolate and magazine over Christmas, along with letters from cadets and parcels from military charities.
He proudly told one table how Prince George favoured his father’s helicopters over the more glamorous jets like Typhoons, which fly from the base he visited.
The Duke said: “George said to me this morning where are you going daddy and I said I’m going to see some pilots who fly fast jets.”
Laughing, he added: “George said ‘if you see a see a helicopter take a picture for me’.”
Sat a few seats away from William were two former colleagues – Flight Sergeant David Sheppard,48, and Sergeant Dickie Myers, 32 – who were part of the RAF Search and Rescue crews at RAF Valley on Anglesey when the royal flew rescue missions from the base.
Sgt Myers, a winchman, who is now based at RAF Akrotiri, said: “He joked about my tatty badge and said I hadn’t lost any weight – I’d put some on – his banter is top notch.”