Thursday was busy for the Duchess of Cornwall as she spent the day in Hampshire. She first visited with families at Normandy Barracks in Aldershot before opening a children’s cancer centre at a local hospital.
At Normandy barracks, she placed a posy on the 4 Rifles Memorial Wall. The wall contains the names of those soldiers killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lieutenant Colonel Carl Boswell is the commander of the 4th Battalion the Rifles (4 Rifles). There are 250 Riflemen based at Al Asad Air Base which is located 100 miles west of Baghdad. The base provides training to the Iraqi army.
She was then welcomed by fanfare of bugles before attending a reception in the Serjeants Mess. She mingled with families who have loved ones deployed overseas. Also at the reception were soldiers, battalion veterans and injured servicemen.
One of those present was Joanna, the wife of Serjeant Major Stephen Metcalf, who is on deployment in Iraq. Joanna brought her two daughters, Ruby, 11, and Florence, four.
Joanna spoke to the Belfast Telegraph saying: “It was really nice to meet the Duchess, it’s nice to know that people do support us and it’s nice for the children to meet someone important as it gives them an idea of the importance of their father’s role.”
She added: “My husband is away until February, it’s the first time he’s been away for Christmas so we’re not looking forward to it and Florence is starting to miss him.”
Ruby added: “It was really good to meet her, it makes me feel really proud of my dad.”
Whilst there, Camilla presented five long-service medals to serving Riflemen. Warrant Officer Richard Brown, 46, from Lisburn, Northern Ireland, received his Meritorious Service Medal by the Duchess.
He said: “It’s great for morale to have a visit from the Royal Colonel, she likes to be part of the regimental family and the battalion in particular.”
She then signed a visitors book and wished everyone a Happy Christmas. She then said: “What a pleasure it has been to come to these new barracks, everyone seems to be very settled here.
“The partners of those serving abroad are doing a great job of supporting each other.”
The next engagement for The Duchess took place at Southhampton’s Children’s Hospital. She opened Piam Brown, a cancer unit that underwent a £1.7 million, seven-month refurbishment. Her Royal Highness met patients, fundraisers, staff and families before being given a tour of the unit which includes consulting rooms, clinic, day ward and teenage games room.
She met children during her tour. One little boy, four-year-old, Phelan Jordan showed the Duchess a picture of a car. Camilla asked if it was for her, but the little boy who was about to gift it to her changed his mind and said it was his picture. She also met eleven-year-old Alicia Cole, the winner of a drawing competition hosted by the Southhampton children’s Hospital charity. Alicia gladly presented the Duchess with a framed copy of her artwork.
At a reception, she met MasterChef winner Shelina Permalloo and unveiled a plaque to commemorate the opening of the cancer unit. A hospital spokesman said: “The unit, which sees more than 120 new patients a year from across the south of England, was originally opened in 1988.
“Since then it has become a national and European centre of excellence for neuroblastoma and the development of immunotherapy treatments, with Dr Juliet Gray, a consultant in paediatric oncology, the UK’s representative on the European Neuroblastoma Research Group.
“The additional beds provided by the refurbishment offer the potential for the unit to take part in more clinical studies and the opportunity for children from outside the region to come to the hospital for novel immunotherapy trials which are not available in other centres.
At the reception, the Duchess said: “I just wanted to congratulate everybody who’s been involved with this wonderful refurbishment of the Piam Brown Ward, I can just see what a wonderful job it is doing for children with this illness.
“I’ve had a friend before who’s had a child on this ward so I just know how wonderfully well they are looked after and I think this new ward will make all the difference, and so I am very proud and pleased to be here today.”