The Duke and Duchess Cambridge, both 38, who paid their respects to Britain’s war dead at the Cenotaph on Sunday, have carried out video calls with servicemen and women currently serving overseas, and with families of armed forces personnel who lost their lives, to hear more about what Remembrance means to them.
Yesterday, Kate Middleton spoke to armed forces families who have lost loved ones to hear how they pay tribute to those they have lost, and about the impact that Remembrance week has for them.
The mother-of-three, who donned a vintage-inspired £79 ivory and black blouse by Ghost, also heard more about the support that they receive from members of the Armed Forces community, including other bereaved families, and the help that is provided by the Royal British Legion.
The Duchess of Cambridge spoke to Charlton Taylor, 11, from Rhyl, Wales, whose father was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010, who was wearing three medals that belonged to Royal Marine Michael Taylor.
The royal, who joined the video call from Kensington Palace, asked Charlton to tell her about the medals, asking: ‘Are those your daddy’s medals? Wow.’
On Thursday, Prince William joined a video call with deployed Armed Forces personnel. Pictured, top row (L-R): Flight Sergeant Gemma Thomson, Leading Physical Instructor Damon Bell. Bottom row (L-R): Corporal Jiwan Kumar Thapa, The Duke of Cambridge
Yesterday, Kate Middleton spoke to armed forces families who have lost loved ones to hear how they pay tribute to those they have lost, and about the impact that Remembrance week has for them. Pictured, the Duchess’ call with armed forces families who have lost loved ones can be accessed. Top row (L-R): Chantelle Wynn, Serena AlexanderBottom row (L-R): The Duchess of Cambridge, Charlton Taylor and Sonia Fleming
The young boy, dressed in a smart jacket and tie, told her one was for his service, another was for his tour of Afghanistan and the other for Iraq.
‘It’s very special that you’re wearing them,’ she told him.
The Duchess went on to ask him if he would tell her a little bit about his father, but laughed when he said he could not remember much, adding: ‘I think mum would explain it best, you take the floor, mum.’
Charlton’s mother, Sonia Fleming, described how her husband had died when Charlton was just ten-months-old and her other sons were 11 and 13.
‘Probably the hardest thing is doing it on your own,’ she admitted.
But Charlton told Kate that he liked to look at photographs of his father and hear stories about him, which she replied was ‘amazing’.
The mother-of-three (pictured during the video call) heard more about the support that they receive from members of the Armed Forces community, including other bereaved families, and the help that is provided by the Royal British Legion
The duchess chatted to the families of armed forces personnel who have lost their lives, many of whom are supported by the Royal British Legion.
The Legion provides lifelong support to anyone who has served with the British Armed Forces and their families. They also give support to families who have been bereaved, including help with funeral costs, ongoing emotional support and connecting people to specialist services such as bereavement counselling or mental health support.
Kate told the women: ‘Sadly, not everybody gets to see that or even actually understand the role they play for families such as yourselves. It has such a big impact, particularly at such tragic times.’
Chantelle Wynn, from Tamworth, was widowed in 2015 when her husband Ryan took his own life after struggling for years with PTSD following a posting in Afghanistan, where he worked for six months as a medic in the Territorial Army.
The couple had been together since they were 16 and were married for 17 years. They had two daughters, Rosie and Daisy.
Mrs Wynn told the Duchess: ‘Obviously, this time of year is always really bad and with his anniversary the day before Remembrance day, this week is really significant. But we plod on and we’ve got family who support us so we get through.’
Prince William followed his father in laying a wreath at the foot of the Cenotaph as he attended Remembrance Sunday. He was joined by Britain’s most prominent politicians
The Duchess of Cambridge wore a beret-style fascinator and a coat which featured military-style detailing as she joined her husband Prince William at the Cenotaph. The Duchess of Cornwall stood two metres apart from her on the balcony overlooking the commemorations
Prince William laid a wreath on the Cenotaph in London on Remembrance day as a small socially-distanced crowd looked on
Mrs Wynn said she had no idea what the Royal British Legion really did until she needed them in her hour of need, revealing that it had provided crucial financial and emotional support.
‘You wear a poppy and you put your donation in but I didn’t know where the donations went,’ she said. ‘But now, I know exactly where those donations go to.’
When the Duchess asked Mrs Wyn if her husband had been open with his mental health, she replied: ‘He would never ever talk about it.
Prince Harry ‘deeply saddened’ after his request to have a wreath laid on his behalf was ‘refused’ by Buckingham Palace
Prince Harry, who spent ten years in the armed forces, made the personal request to Buckingham Palace, but was refused due to the fact he had left royal duties in March,
The Queen was not thought to have been informed of the request or its refusal, which is said to have ‘deeply saddened’ the Duke of Sussex, the publication reports.
Prince Harry emphasised the importance of Remembrance Sunday during an appearance on a military podcast to mark the event.
He described the day as ‘a moment for respect and for hope’, in an interview with the Declassified podcast.
The former royal said: ‘The act of remembering, of remembrance, is a profound act of honour. It’s how we preserve the legacies of entire generations and show our gratitude for the sacrifices they made in order for us to be able to live the lives we live today.’
In previous years, the duke has marked the day with visits to the Cenotaph (pictured) and Westminster Abbey’s Field of Remembrance, 2016
‘The only time he would ever talk about it was every November when he felt like he was back in the war. Bonfire night was just a no-go in our house because he thought that those fireworks were him back in the war zone.
‘He never really had problems until that October, and then it was literally like being hit by a brick wall.’
Kate, who had a poppy pinned to the black collar of her white blouse and was surrounded by family photographs in Kensington Palace for the call, told the ladies: ‘I’m sure you spend your time every day remembering your loved ones, but it’s so important that the nation comes together and really spends time thinking about those who have lost their lives and the families that have been impacted.
‘It’s been a real honour to speak to all of you and I think I speak for the whole nation when I say just how proud you should be of your loved ones, and for the sacrifice and the bravery that they’ve shown.
‘I’ll certainly be thinking of you this difficult week and will be for many years to come.
Last Thursday, Prince William spoke to deployed representatives from the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force.
Those on the call spoke to the royal about the important role that Remembrance plays in their lives, allowing them to remember those who have lost their lives, and to reflect upon the physical and mental sacrifices that those in the Armed Forces continue to make for their country.
The Duke of Cambridge also heard more about their experiences of being stationed overseas, the operational duties that they are carrying out – including the training of local military forces and the protection of international shipping routes, and the work that is being done to support the physical and mental health of those on deployment.
Around 11,000 members of British Armed Forces personnel are currently deployed on operations around the world, from North America to the Gulf, in order to protect communities across the globe and promote the interests of the UK abroad.
During the call, Prince William spoke to heroes serving in Somalia, Qatar and The Gulf and said: ‘I hope that you know that we are still thinking about all of you and the important job you’re all doing, and that everyone is very grateful.
‘I hope that over Remembrance Sunday we can remind people just how committed and determined, and how brilliant all the people we have in the Forces are around the world.
‘People don’t necessarily realise how committed and scattered the British army forces are around the word. It is quite impressive just a little snapshot of you three here in important areas of the globe where we are committed to doing our best and making a difference.
‘It is interesting at Remembrance to have that time to reflect on all the roles that you guys are playing and British forces are committed to.’
The Duke of Cambridge joked with Leading Physical Instructor Damon Bell about his £40million drugs bust while serving on HMS Iron Duke in 2008.
The Navy fitness instructor described how the crew on board HMS Montrose had been keeping up spirits after being banned from shore leave due to Covid-19 in the Gulf.
And while patrolling the Straights of Hormuz the frigate intercepted and seized more than 450kg of methamphetamine from smugglers last month.
He said: ‘Only half of what you got on Iron Duke but still nonetheless very good.’
Prince William, who flew a Lynx chopper to hunt down smugglers with £40m of cocaine while serving in the Caribbean 14 years ago, said: ‘I wasn’t going to bring that up but I’m glad that’s still being talked about.’
The crew, who are taking part in Operation Kipion to make sure the Gulf is safe for shipping, held a Remembrance Day parade on Sunday on flight deck and regularly have onboard events to ‘keep up morale’ and help mental health.
The Queen, Prince Charles and Prime Minister Boris Johnson led politicians and royals who paid their respects to Britain’s war dead at the Cenotaph on Sunday
Strict social distancing was in place to allow the ceremony to go ahead on Sunday despite the threat of coronavirus. Pictured: The Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge kept their distance as they watched Sunday’s commemorations
The Earl of Wessex Prince Edward also laid a wreath at the Sunday service – an annual tradition for several members of the Royal family
William said: ‘I remember being beasted by people like you Damon on the Iron Duke. The on-deck PT was always quite a fun afternoon. I think after a number of lockdowns I might need your PT skills to help get back into shape again.
Damon replied: ‘Always on the end of a zoom call sir, whenever you’re ready.’
Corporal Jiwan Kumar Thapa of the Queen’s Gurkha Signals, who has spent three months on Operation Tangham training local military forces against Al-Shabaab extremists in Somalia, described how his father and grandfather had served in Gurkha regiments for the British Amy.
William said: ‘You followed in a very proud history. We are very grateful for all the hard work and wonderful history that we have had with the Gurkhas. You have a fearsome reputation around the world.’
Flight Sergeant Gemma Thomson, from RAF Wyton, spoke from her base in Qatar where Brits are deployed to tackle Daesh for Operation Shader.
The mum-of-two, whose eldest was born six years ago on Remembrance Day, described why the annual ceremony was so vital.
William added: ‘To be born on Remembrance Sunday is a very special birthday,’ to which Gemma responded: ‘It makes remembrance that little bit special.’
She responded: ‘It is so much more than just physical sacrifices but also small sacrifices people continue to make. Remembrance, other than my son, is a very important time.
‘Remembrance is so much bigger than myself is something I articulate to my son when I’m making him lay a wreath on his birthday. It’s important to know there are things much bigger than you.’
She went on to say more in the Armed Forces is being done to support the mental health of servicemen and women.
‘There is a culture shift and less of a stigma’, she added.
The Duke of Cambridge also asked about Gemma’s six-year-old learning to lay a wreath on his birthday and the party afterwards.
‘Got to get the balance of having a party and laying a wreath; one quite solemn, one quite chaotic,’ he said.
After Gemma described how much cake her son eats, the heir to the throne replied: ‘Then the sugar kicks in and it’s all chaos after that.
Gemma replied: ‘Oh you know’
Prince William, who is father of George, seven, Charlotte, five, and two-year-old Louis, nodded and smiled and said: ‘Yeah I know’.