Prince William and Kate visit Air Cadets in tribute to Prince Philip

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge carried out their first public engagement since the death of The Duke of Edinburgh on Wednesday, paying a visit to the 282 East Ham Squadron Air Cadets.

Even as royal mourning continued, which usually means the cessation of royal duties, the couple paid a visit to the squadron at their Cornwell VC Cadet Centre in London.

The Duke of Edinburgh had a long history with the Air Cadets. He was Air Commodore-in-Chief of the Air Cadets for 63 years before, in December 2015, he passed the patronage over to his granddaughter-in-law Catherine, who became Honorary Air Commandant. A small event took place in Buckingham Palace ahead of the Royal Family’s Christmas lunch to mark the passing on of the patronage.

Prince William and Kate visit the air cadets following The Duke of Edinburgh’s death

282 East Ham Squadron helps over 60 Air Cadets to gain the skills and qualifications they need. Those skills and qualifications cover a wide variety of things, from aviation to First Aid, from communicating over radio and online to music and space and much more.

The Squadron also carried out a number of projects abroad, which include refurbishing school and teaching English. They are big advocates of rainforest conservation, which is of interest to The Duke of Cambridge, too.

The engagement began outdoors, where the couple met cadets for socially distanced chat without masks. The cadets told them about the various field craft exercises that they were taken part in before the royal couple arrived.

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While Catherine holds the patronage of the Air Cadets, the visit was of great interest to Prince William, with his history in the RAF and as a search and rescue pilot. While the Duke refused the offer of trying on the Air Cadet kit, the couple showed great interest in finding out how each person they talked to came to join the cadets and how they found the experience.

William, knowing from experience what the cadets are going through, said: “The hardest thing is joining up. You don’t know what to expect. I bet you have changed as people, I bet you have grown a lot.”

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Moving indoors (and putting on masks), the couple met with Cadets who are in the middle of doing their Duke of Edinburgh Awards. For those too young to achieve their Awards just yet, the Cadets have their own pre-Award ‘Blue Badge’ scheme for those aged 12-14. It allows them the opportunity to begin to develop the skills that The Duke of Edinburgh Award help in bringing forward and also gives them a taste of the many activities they will go on to do.

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During the visit, the couple were shown a Grob Tutor flight simulator and, while both were invited to have a go of it, William decided to step back and let his wife take centre stage. “I’ll hold the handbag!” he said, taking his wife’s clutch before stepping back.

The Duke wasn’t missing out on the experience however, as he explained he had previous experience with the simulator. He told some officers that that was ‘where it all started’ for him during his training with the RAF.

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The Duchess climbed in and put on a headset before being taught just what to do by Flight Sergeant Yasmin Fokerebacus. Flying is in the Duchess’ blood – her mother was a flight attendant and her father a flight dispatcher for British Airways, while her grandfather Peter Middleton was a member of the RAF – and one of the pilots who accompanied The Duke of Edinburgh on a visit to South America in 1962.

The Duke and Duchess also got the chance to meet with some former Air Cadets who had furthered their career by joining the RAF. They spoke to them about how the Air Cadets, and even The Duke of Edinburgh Award, were vital help to them in their careers.

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The visit ended with a touching three cheers from the Squadron for the late Duke, someone whose legacy will continue on in the many young people that the royal couple met today.

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