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Prince & Princess of Wales

The lifejacket that put a smile on the face of a princess

The Princess of Wales has visited the Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton, learning about the vital operations that take place at one of the UK’s busiest air fields.

Catherine visited in her capacity as Commodore in Chief of the Fleet Air Arm, one of her newer military appointments.

During her visit, the Princess was treated to a flyover of a F-35B Lightning and met air traffic controllers at one of the UK’s busiest air fields.

LPhot Gareth Smith/UK MOD © Crown copyright 2023

A moment of levity came in the hangar, when Catherine met Louise Evans-Hughes, who works at RNAS Yeovilton as a leading survival equipment technician, to get a demonstration of some lifesaving equipment.

The Princess of Wales tested out a lifejacket, and seemed apprehensive to pull on the cord to deploy it. Evans-Hughes told reporters afterwards, “I told the princess there might be a bit of a bang because sometimes when the Velcro rips open there is a bit of a noise.”

Catherine could be seen giggling as the lifejacket opened around her shoulders, and Evans-Hughes quickly let some of the air out so she wouldn’t be uncomfortable. She added that, “The princess was really engaged, really excited and asking loads of questions, which is quite nice.”

LPhot Gareth Smith/ UK MOD © Crown copyright 2023

The Princcess then toured one of the Merlin Mk2 helicopters to see how it provides important air surveillance; and visited the Wildcat Training Centre to view training exercises.

RNAS Yeovilton’s Commanding Officer, Captain Duncan Thomas, said: “I am delighted and privileged to have welcomed Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales to the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton, at the start of what I am sure will be a long and rewarding relationship in her capacity as Commodore-in-Chief of the Fleet Air Arm.

“We’ve all been hugely excited by this opportunity and I am delighted that Her Royal Highness will be able to support and inspire our exceptionally talented sailors, aircrew and wider workforce family for years to come.”

Kensington Palace shared a video of Catherine’s visit to RNAS Yeovilton with the caption, “Thank you to all the brave men and women who serve in the Royal Navy and across the Armed Forces.”

RNAS Yeovilton is one of the Royal Navy’s two air bases and employs around 4,300 personnel. There are more than 100 aircraft that operate out of the base.

The Fleet Air Arm that Catherine is Commodore in Chief of, is the aviation branch of the Royal Navy, and, according to its website, is responsible for “humanitarian operations, through to securing the seas, fighting terrorism and landing troops onto hostile shores.”

Catherine was named Commodore in Chief of the Fleet Air Arm over the summer, appointed by King Charles III.

About author

Jess Ilse is the Assistant Editor at Royal Central. She specialises in the British, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish Royal Families and has been following royalty since Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee. Jess has provided commentary for media outlets in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Jess works in communications and her debut novel THE MAJESTIC SISTERS will publish in Fall 2024.