Prince Harry drops in to RAF Honington

PRINCE Harry officially opened a �5 million mess during his whirlwind tour of RAF Honington.

PRINCE Harry officially opened a �5 million mess during his whirlwind tour of RAF Honington.

The 25-year-old royal made his debut appearance at the Suffolk base, where he is Honorary Air Commandant.

During his two hour visit he saw a training exercise, got to grips with an adapted armoured vehicle and chatted to service personnel and partners of airmen deployed in Afghanistan.

Station Commander Group Captain Nick Bray said: “It was an exciting visit for everyone and a huge shot in the arm for people's morale.

“They were very interested to meet him and benefited immensely from his enthusiasm and good humour.”

Arriving in a navy blue Jaguar, the Prince was greeted on the steps of the Officer's Mess by Gp Capt Bray, who spoke to him for 15 minutes about the RAF regiment, the base and its operations.

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The prince, wearing army air corps fatigues and a light blue beret, was taken to the assault course at the training wing to see 14 civilians, who want to become regiment officers, take part in an exercise skirmish.

This included running while holding logs and performing squats and press ups, and was designed to test their endurance and capabilities.

Wing Commander Spike Clark said: “This is their chance to look at us and our chance to select. We try to select the people with the least risk of failure. They spend three days with us doing various physical tests.”

The prince was shown inside and around an adapted armoured vehicle known as a Fuchs, which is used for nuclear and chemical detection.

Staff Sergeant Alfie Paterson said: “He was very impressed with it, was wondering how it worked and how we use the vehicle. He was a nice lad and very talkative.”

The prince appeared relaxed and friendly as he struck up conversations with groups of servicemen and partners of deployed service personnel at the new Meiktila Mess.

The mess, which is for junior ranks, is named after a wartime battle in Burma and was built to offer a new dining experience to personnel stationed at Honington and accommodates 600 diners.

Servicemen he spoke to included Corporal Nicola Bradshaw, 32, of the Force Protection Centre.

She said: “He was very friendly, personable and made us feel very relaxed. He took a real interest in the base and asked for clarification on the different squadrons.”

Among the partners he chatted to were Emma Buckley, whose husband Dougie is serving with 2 Squadron RAF Regiment in Kandahar. He returns on Sunday.

She said: “He was charming, relaxed and really easy to talk to. He was asking about the facilities and what has been arranged for the wives and children back home.”

The Prince finished his visit by unveiling a plaque to mark the official opening of the new mess before leaving the base.