Prince Harry visited Lancashire today, where he thanked the staff of Veterans UK for their ‘amazing work’. The visit was just the start of a busy visit for the fifth-in-line to the throne, which also included a trip to a nature reserve centre, and a sports arena.
On his first engagement at Veterans UK (a 24-hour Blackpool-based helpline service, which provides welfare support for ex-servicemen, women and their families), the Prince met with people who have received help from the organisation, including widow Jemma Neilson, 29, whose husband Darren, 31, was killed four months ago in a tank explosion during a training exercise at Castlemartin, west Wales.
She explained how Veterans UK helped her get access to the Armed Forces compensation scheme, and is assisting her in finding a new home. She remarked: “The service has been absolutely invaluable. I don’t know where I would be without it.”
Mrs Neilson said that Prince Harry was ‘so friendly’ and had ‘instantly’ put her at ease during their conversation.
He listened in to a phone call received that day, to get a feel for their work.
Furthermore, retired RAF squadron leader Stephen Flaherty, 66, said that Harry was ‘a delight’ to talk to. Mr Flaherty, ended his flying career in 1986 due to medical issues and was eventually put in touch with the charity. “He has a very detailed knowledge of an awful lot, without a shadow of a doubt. A very caring person”, he said.
The retired airmen had nothing but praise for Veterans UK, noting that, “They tell you about allowances that I had never heard of. They are always there. I am very privileged to be all to call on them.”
The head of the charity, Jon Parkin, said: “I was delighted to welcome Prince Harry to Veterans UK. I am hugely inspired by his work with veterans, so I was very proud to be able to demonstrate the breadth of services we provide here.”
The children of the staff then presented Harry with a brass Passchendaele commemorative poppy, made from shell fuses found on WWI battlefields.
To end the visit, the Prince unveiled a commemorative plaque to mark 25 years of operation from the Norcross site and said: “Happy anniversary everyone. Thank you for all the amazing work that you have been doing and see you in another 25 years!”
After his visit, Prince Harry returned to St Michael’s on Wyre, the Lancashire village that was devastated by severe flooding at the end of 2015, causing damage to over 1,700 businesses and homes. Harry first visited the village in February 2016.
Today, the young Royal officially reopened the village hall at a reception that was attended by those who played a crucial role in responding to the floods.
Harry took some time to speak to 99-year-old Winnie Hodson, who first met the Prince during last year’s visit. Her daughter Winnie, 77, said, “He remembered her from last time. He was asking how we were and about the floods.”
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) October 23, 2017
The Prince was greeted outside the village hall by an enthusiastic crowd of children from St Michael’s on Wyre Primary School, which had to be completely refurbished. He was also presented with a stick of Blackpool rock by a member of the crowd.
The school’s headteacher Diane Carroll, 46, said the children were taught in portable cabins for almost six months while work was carried out. “Harry was asking about the school and said he had been speaking to one of the students outside whose home had been flooded as well,” she explained.
The Prince then donned his wellies, and moved on to meet young people at Brockholes Nature Reserve in Preston. He learnt about the MyPlace project, which aims to encourage young people to take action in environmental activity, and mindfulness.
The former army captain joined the youngsters, aged 13-24 in the woods as he watched them use branches to create a dead hedge, for use as a shelter for small animals.
Harry looked impressed and told those taking part, “A concrete jungle is not good for anyone.”
One of the participants, Hannah Croft, 18, said that meeting Harry was ‘brilliant’ adding that he was a ‘really cool guy’.
Sitting around the campfire, the 32-year-old revealed he’d never toasted a marshmallow!
To conclude the day in Lancashire, Prince Harry visited the Sir Tom Finney Soccer Development Centre and the Lancashire Bombers Wheelchair Basketball Club, at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) sports arena.
One of the players there was at this year’s Invictus Games, winning a silver and gold in the sport.
At the Soccer Development Centre, the Royal watched training sessions for refugees and women’s teams, and spoke to multiple players – one of which was, 21-year-old Sami Hary, who moved to the UK from Sudan six years ago.
He said: “There are people from different backgrounds in the club. Prince Harry asked me if I was happy in England, which obviously I am. I don’t believe I have met him, it’s like a dream!”