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Royal guests for Dragon and Illustrious as Duke and Duchess of Cornwall drop in
27 February 2014

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall spent the day in Portsmouth seeing treasures of the Navy past and today’s cutting-edge Fleet.

The couple toured the new Mary Rose museum before Prince Charles joined HMS Dragon off the Isle of Wight, then returned to rejoin his wife on HMS Illustrious where she was meeting medics, ship’s company and their families.

Pictures: PO(Phot) Owen Cooban and LA(Phot) Maxine Davies

ENJOYING a cup of tea and nibbles with the heir to the throne are the men and women of HMS Dragon, who told the Prince of Wales about their seven-month mission in the Gulf and eastern Mediterranean.

Meanwhile aboard HMS Illustrious, his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, was learning about the work of the carrier’s crew – and her medics especially – who explained how the ship helped the people of the Philippines.

In a busy day-long visit to Portsmouth Naval Base and the Solent, the couple toured the new Mary Rose museum – Prince Charles dived on the wreck more than 30 years ago – before going their separate ways.

Personnel of HMS Illustrious' impressive sick bay describe some of the equipment they use

The Prince of Wales went off to the ‘Welsh warship’, undergoing exercises off the Isle of Wight, while his wife was hosted aboard Lusty alongside in the naval base.

The couple were reunited at the end of the visit as they jointly met 30 families on board Illustrious.

The Prince spent two hours aboard HMS Dragon where he was briefed on the highlights of the deployment, before seeing a demonstration in the operations room of the ship’s potent air defence capabilities.

He also presented NATO Libya medals to Lt Cdr Claire Thompson and ET James Smith, and Long Service and Good Conduct medals to POs Michael Delaney and Timothy Mills.

“We had all been looking forward to this visit by the Prince of Wales, and I was really pleased to hear that he would be presenting me with my NATO medal for operations off the coast of Libya,” said ET Smith.

“This is the first time I have met Royalty in my time in the Navy and it is a day I will remember long into the future.”

Dragon’s CO Capt Iain Lower said a Royal visit was “always something to cherish”.

Capt Lower outlines the work of the Royal Navy in the Gulf region to the Prince of Wales

He added:  “I know all my sailors had been looking forward to it. To have the Prince of Wales made it all the more special.

“As the Royal Navy’s ‘Welsh’ ship the whole of the ship’s company enjoy a particularly strong bond with the city of Cardiff and the Welsh connection is something we are all very proud of.”

Aboard Illustrious the Duchess learned about the ship’s five-month deployment to the Mediterranean and Gulf which included disaster relief in the Philippines in the wake of devastating Typhoon Haiyan.

The helicopter carrier spent three weeks delivering emergency aid supplies to the islands and repairing key services and broken infrastructure.

In her role as Commodore-in-Chief Royal Naval Medical Services, the Duchess met 26 of the ship’s medics who provided a wide range of medical care to islanders affected by the devastation.

Dragon's Capt Lower shows off the Type 45's impressive ops room to Prince Charles

Radiographer PO(MT) Zara Rathbone, 31, from Birmingham, described her experiences on Operation Patwin.

“The Duchess was lovely and really easy to talk to. It was nice to get some recognition for what we do from somebody like that,” she said.

“It was nice of her to take the time to speak to us and she chatted with everyone here.”

The Duchess also witnessed a casualty-handling exercise and toured Illustrious’ medical facilities.

The Duchess watches a casualty exercise in Lusty's hangar

“We were all thrilled to host the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall today and to demonstrate how the ship provides modern and effective medical support as a fundamental part of the United Kingdom’s military capabilities,” said Capt Mike Utley, the carrier’s commanding officer.

“As Commodore-in-Chief of the Royal Naval Medical Services, The Duchess was particularly interested in how the Royal Navy promotes the health, fitness and well-being of the men and women in the Naval Service.

“Their Royal Highnesses were also very keen to thank the families who provided us with the welcome moral support whilst we were helping with the relief effort in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. For many, it was a great opportunity to meet the Royal couple for the first time.

“Members of the crew were able to recount their experiences, while those that supported us so well were able to describe their feelings and emotions over the Christmas period as their loved ones were delivering vital aid to the people of the Philippines.”