In her capacity as Honorary Air Commodore, The Countess of Wessex visited RAF Wittering, near Peterborough, on Tuesday 30th September.
Sophie was met at the Station by its Commander, Group Captain Damian Alexander, and Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, High Duberly, before undertaking a busy schedule of engagements.
Cheering the Countess as she arrived, pupils from Wittering Primary School gathered outside the Officers’ Mess, dressed in their bright red school jumpers, and seemed in good spirits with smiles aplenty as they waved their Union flags.
Two year six pupils, Rebecca O’Sullivan and Owen Harrison handed her a bouquet before she moved inside the Officers’ Mess.
The Countess presented nine of the service personnel at the Station with citations and medals for good conduct, long service and overseas service in a short ceremony and spent time meeting families of the servicemen and women currently serving in the RAF, including some of the units who will relocate to RAF Wittering within the coming months.
One of those units is the Cambridge University Air Squadron and, during her tour of the Station, Sophie was introduced to students from the unit. Katie King, a physics and chemistry student, and Christopher Khoo, studying neuroscience, provided a dynamic flying display of a Grob Tutor aircraft, which is used across all three services for elementary flying training. Cadet Khoo accompanied the Countess on her in-depth tour of the aircraft.
Speaking of the Countess’ visit, Station Commander, Group Captain Alexander said:
“We’re deeply honoured to have welcomed Her Royal Highness here today; the visit has been most rewarding. I’m always struck by just how appreciative Her Royal Highness is about what we contribute, both to Defence and the community, and have really enjoyed the excitement and genuine pleasure that her visit has brought to the Station.
“Today we’ve shown Her Royal Highness how we recognise our Service and civilian personnel, explained the future for RAF Wittering, and have demonstrated how we’re making a positive contribution to the community. It’s been a really successful day for the Station and our neighbours in Wittering village.”
After a brief presentation from 71 Inspection and Repair Squadron, specialising in repairing damaged aircraft in deployed locations, more red school jumpers and Union flags met the Countess, as she moved on to visit Wittering Primary School in the afternoon.
There to open the renamed Wittering Families Centre, Sophie unveiled the commemorative plaque to thunderous applause and cheers from the assembled pupils before meeting with families and staff who will use the centre.
Sophie, a mother of two herself, seemed to be totally at ease as she took part in a ‘Musical Mini’ session with youngsters and their parents.
The Countess, who is well-known for her support of children’s charities, joined in singing nursery rhymes including ‘Humpty Dumpty’ and ‘Incy Wincy Spider’ and spent time cradling three-month-old Rowan Wilson-Jones, whose mother frequently attends the centre with her other son, three year-old Ronny.
The Families Centre, which is attached to Wittering Primary School, holds activities for children and provides support for parents with young children. It recently received funding from the Armed Forces’ Community Covenant, which enables military establishments to materially contribute to worthwhile community projects.
Rhys Thrower, headteacher of Wittering Primary School said:
“It’s been a great day for the school, the families and the children. Her Royal Highness has a real understanding of the value of the Wittering Families Centre and what it means for us.”
Ministry of Defence – HRH The Countess of Wessex in 2011, visiting the 5 Rifles in Wiltshire, England. (Featured Image)