Prince Charles cracks jokes with Falklands veteran during 'special' visit to Portsmouth Naval Base
and live on Freeview channel 276
The couple were greeted by the president of the South Atlantic Medal Association 82 (SAMA82), Commodore Jamie Miller, and received the royal salute from a Royal Navy guard of honour accompanied by an army band on the jetty at Portsmouth Naval Base.
As they arrived on the warship, they were met by the aircraft carrier’s commanding officer, Captain Ian Feasey, and defence secretary Ben Wallace.
Charles and Camilla then had a chance to meet Falklands veterans, serving personnel and their families during a reception in the warship’s vast hangar.
Among those to meet Prince Charles was Fratton veteran Chris Purcell, who survived the sinking of HMS Sheffield.
Chris and his wife Louise were greeted warmly by the Prince of Wales, who was seen chuckling with them.
‘I had said to him, “long time, no see, sir”,’ Chris said. ‘He said, “yes, it’s been a few years”. He was a nice man. He was really friendly and wanted to know how we were.’
Retired Leading Hand David Beeton, 63 – who survived the sinking of HMS Coventry – added: ‘Prince Charles was incredibly friendly and seemed really engaged. He was really interested in Coventry and was asking me where I was on the ship when she was hit.’
Claire added: ‘Prince Charles was extremely chatty. He is just like he is on TV.’
Tom Herring, chairman of SAMA, said the arrival of the Royals was a ‘big moment’ for the veterans
‘The fact we had our patron, Prince Charles, here was just fantastic,’ he said. ’It was the icing on the cake.’
Lieutenant Colonel David Okleton served during the Falklands war and attended the festivities with his son-in-law, Lieutenant Commander Barry Crosswood – who is serving in HMS Queen Elizabeth.
David said: ‘This is a great privilege. This is my first Falklands event in over 40 years so it was a really special event and to see the royal family here.’
Lt Cdr Crosswood added: ‘This was an exciting chance for the ship’s company to hear about the adventures of the past that our veterans had.’
A royal guard of honour comprising more than 100 sailors and officers from HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales conducted a royal salute ahead of the reception.
Royal Air Force personnel lined the route to the ship, while the British Army Band Tidworth performed the national anthem upon the arrival of the Royals.
Captain Feasey said the day meant a ‘huge amount’ to the Royal Navy, and added: ‘To have a royal visit in one of Her Majesty’s ships is a huge thing for both us as individuals but our ship’s companies as well.’
Captain Richard Hewitt, commanding officer of HMS Prince of Wales, said it was a ‘special occasion’ for his sailors to meet Camilla, the lady sponsor of their ship.
He added: ‘The link with the Royal Family or any naval unit is really important - it’s important for the sailors, it’s important for their families and it gives us that extra spring in our step when we sail from the UK.’