Prince Harry greeted the Walking with the Wounded team at Buckingham Palace today, following the completion of a 1,000 mile trek across Britain.
The six-strong team of veterans were congratulated by Harry, patron of the Walk of Britain, as they entered the forecourt at Buckingham Palace. They received applause from crowds outside the Palace, as well as those gathered inside, as they arrived.
Five men and one woman started in Scotland on 22nd August, and finished the final leg of their lengthy walk in London today.
The 31-year-old Prince joined the group in Shropshire for a 17-mile stretch, and again in Norfolk, though the second time was unannounced and something of a surprise.
Stewart Hill, Matt Fisher, Alec Robotham, Scott Ransley, Kirstie Ennis and Andrew Bement formed the team, including two American Marines, on the walk that took them across the length of the country, and to four mountain summits.
All have severe physical and psychological injuries, including the loss of limbs, PTSD and the loss of an eye.
The challenge was aimed at raising money for the Walking With the Wounded, which the Prince has supported for a number of years, including trekking with a team of injured veterans to the South Pole in 2013. The charity supports injured members of the armed forces trying to regain their independence through employment.
Harry chatted to the ex-servicemen and their families about the walk, which lasted 72 days, in front of the cameras, and joked with one family:
“Are you happy to have him back?…Really, you are? I was sick of him only after two days!”
The former-Captain Wales was seen hugging American Kirstie Ennis, a Marine who was severely injured in a helicopter crash in 2012. The Super Stallion helicopter, on which she was a gunner, crash landed in Afghanistan; the 50-calibre machine gun smashed through the left side of her face on impact, and she suffered serious injuries. Her jaw and half her face were destroyed.
Following the completiong of this walk, she will have her left lower-leg amputated.
During the walk Kirstie placed 24 dog tags, replicas of military identification tags, at different places on the 1,000 mile route, in homage to those of her unit who didn’t return from the war zone.
Prince Harry helped her lay one in Shropshire and then in Norfolk. He das due to help her place the last one at Buckingham Palace, to remember Corporal TJ Baume, but instead, she gave it to the Royal.
“No I can’t, I can’t accept this,” Harry said, moved by the gesture. He embraced her clutching the tag.
Asked how she felt now that the walk was over, she said: “It was bittersweet, it was quite painful and there is nothing you can do to prepare for that, even when you are able bodied, much less when you have debilitating injuries.
“It was quite the challenge. I have never felt so disabled in my life at times. But to say that we have done it now, it is a great feeling. We have pushed our limits.”
Ed Park, co-founder of WWTW, said that as a former soldier, Harry ‘speaks their language’.
“He is somebody they are able to relate to very easily and importantly he can relate back to them.”
“He’s genuinely interested in hearing peoples’ back-stories. He wants to get under their skin so he can take that understanding and experience to help others in the future.”