On Thursday, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended a parade and service in Anglesey, a place near and dear to their hearts. Their return to the welsh RAF base formally marked the close of the UK’s search and rescue helicopter service after 75 years.
The service is now privatised. The department for transport awarded the contract to Bristow Helicopters, a civilian company in 2013.
Before their marriage in 2010, the Duke and Duchess moved to Anglesey where the Duke flew rescue missions with the RAF Search and Rescue, (SAR) Force. During his 3-year tour with the C Flight, 22 Squadron at RAF Valley, Flight Lieutenant Wales participated in 156 search and rescue operations, rescuing 149 people.
During his time at RAF Valley, Prince William qualified as an operational captain, granting him overall control of the Sea King helicopters. His squadron commander, Wing Commander, Mark Dunlop, welcomed William’s return, calling him “one of the family”.
The Commander, nicknamed Sparky, spoke with great professional and personal fondness for the Prince saying: “Prince William was a model serviceman, by which I would say he was disciplined, professional, dedicated but also with a human side and was able to get on well with anyone, which is a neat trick.”
Describing his abilitiy to fulfill his duties, he continued: “We just don’t have room for passengers aboard these aircraft, in the sense if you’re part of the operating crew you need to be up to doing your job, and William was not only up to doing it, but even more than that. He was Flight Lieutenant Wales, he was a search and rescue captain, he would do all the duties associated with coming on shift.”
Finally, the commander discussed how Prince William fit in with his crew, saying: “He would live and work with his crew, go on rescues with his crew, eat with his crew and he was just another one of the guys.”