Royal tour: Rapturous reception in Marlborough

Last updated 14:43 10/04/2014
DANIEL GALVIN/Fairfax NZ

Prince William tries out a World War I bi-plane during a tour of Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre.

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PORTRAIT: Catherine stands beside a new portrait of the Queen after she and Prince William unveiled it at Government House.

Royal tour takes in Marlborough

Royal tour hits Marlborough

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Prince William has channelled Biggles this afternoon, climbing into the cockpit of a World War I Sopwith Pup during a tour of the Omaka Heritage Aviation Centre in Marlborough.

William and Kate were shown around the centre by film-maker Sir Peter Jackson.

After getting into the vintage biplane, the prince turned and smiled and said: "Perfect, fine by me, start 'er up."

Kate laughed as William struggled to manoeuvre his long legs into the biplane's cockpit.

He asked if it worked, while Kate peered in asking him what the different levers did.

"It's fantastic," he said.

However, he declined to put on a vintage pilot's helmet and goggles, despite urges to do so from the media.

"No, no, no," he said.

"A step too far?" Prime Minister John Key posited.

"It might well be," William replied.

He remained in the cockpit for several minutes while the intricacies of the aircraft were explained to him by Graham Orphan, who led the royals through the tour.

William had moments of self doubt as he tried to get out of the Sopwith Pup, which had wires running in every direction between the wings.

"Oh dear, there's no dignified way of doing this, is there?" he said.

"Let's see if I can get out without smacking my head".

The royal couple also stepped inside an Avro Anson plane from WWII, complete with a gun turret.

Plane owners Bill and Robyn Reid said it took 10 years to restore the plane - believed to be the only one of its type remaining.

William sat at the controls for some time, amazed with the cockpit controls, all from the war period, painstakingly restored.

The royal couple were also shown the life-like exhibition of the famous Red Baron's last flight when he was shot down over British lines and killed in 1918 - after shooting down a record 80 Allied planes.

Sir Peter explained that Australian troops were first on the scene and they proceeded to strip the plane for mementos.

It was a fact that brought a chortle from the prince. He wondered where the paraphernalia was now.

After the tour, William told Sir Peter, "It was very, very good".

"Thank you so much," Kate said.

About the weather, she said, "It reminds us of home."

Then they were whisked away, waving to the crowd from an open car window.

Sir Peter, a benefactor of the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre trust, said it was great to have the royal couple at the museum.

"It nice, very, very nice," Sir Peter said.

In the couple's final moments of their visit to the centre, Sir Peter and William could be heard joking about flying in New Zealand.

"I don't know what the paperwork is," Sir Peter said to the Duke.

Outside, William's looks were a subject of hot discussion.

"Everyone said he looks bald but thought he was handsome," Saskia Bray, 9, from Blenheim said.

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Her aunt Sharon bray, 67, said: "William is the fourth generation of royal I have met. He is much more handsome than his father Charles." 

'SHE'S SO PERFECT'

This morning the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge completed their first New Zealand walkabout at a packed Seymour Square in Blenheim.

And just about everyone in the front row of the crowd was rewarded for their wait with William and Kate taking their time to greet them.

Mackenzie Large, 5, was surprised when Kate stopped and talked to her. The duchess asked her why she was giving her flowers. "I said because I wanted to," Mackenzie said.

She said "the princess" looked very pretty.

"She had a pretty blue dress and I liked her shoes and her hair and her earrings," she said.

Mackenzie was looking forward to telling her friends what happened, she said.

People rushed to the barrier lining the path the royal couple were to walk down, standing on tip-toes to get a glimpse of them.

Yvonne Walker was shaking after she shook Kate's hand.

"It's really a once in a lifetime thing for most of us," she said.

"That was just awesome."

Her mother, Margaret Marfell, 79, was also ecstatic when the duchess shook her hand.

"I didn't think I'd ever see them in person, and I got to shake her hand," she said.

Marlborough Girls' College student Brydie Godsiff, 15, was overwhelmed she got to shake Kate's hand.

"She was walking past and said hello, and I shook her hand and she kept going," she said.

"My heart's racing. You see them on the TV all the time - she's just perfect."

Debbie Herron said she was hugely impressed with how much time Kate took to talk with the crowd.

"She is so gracious with her time," Herron said.

"She didn't just rush through, everyone in the front row got to meet her and even those a row back who stuck out their hands got a handshake. Her handshake was very good, very warm and sincere."

Jane Leaning was still trembling after she got to shake Kate's hand.

"She asked who made my hat, I said my aunty Lou. Then she saw my T-shirt and said I was very patriotic. She thanked me for coming," she said.

"It was so exciting, I'm still shaking."

RAPTUROUS RECEPTION

Earlier there was loud cheering shortly after 11.15am as the PA announcer said "their royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge".

William was wearing medals on his left lapel, while Kate has trotted out a pony tail for the first time on tour and was wearing an a blue skirt and jacket designed by Alexander McQueen.

She was also wearing a poppy brooch on her left lapel, which was the WW100 pin, marking a century since World War I broke out.

William's medals were the Queen's golden diamond jubilee medals.

After the cheering and excitement that marked the arrival of the royal couple, the event went quiet for several minutes while respects were paid to the fallen of World War I and II.

The duke and duchess stood, heads bowed, in silence, then walked slowly forward to lay a wreath of flowers at the base of the city's memorial cenotaph, as an eerie calm fell over a town that had been rippling with excitement for the past hour.

William and Kate separated to meet two groups of war veterans seated on the paving stones near the cenotaph.

Kate did much more than the customary handshake and move on.

She smiled warmly as she shook hands and spoke at length with 10 of the returned servicemen. One veteran handed her a photo, which she showed the mayoress, who was beside her.

World War II veterans Wilton Sterrit, 90, and Brian Schwass, 89, were honoured to meet the duchess.

" I was very pleased to meet her," Sterrit said. "[She's] Lovely, isn't she. Very natural."

"I'm elated," Schwass said.

"We just talked the weather. She wanted to know where I served."

Sterrit showed Kate a photo taken of himself with her husband's grandfather, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, during his 1974 New Zealand tour with the Queen.

"She said, 'oh that's you'. I said, 'it's a long time ago'."

William spoke with the college students who sang at the ceremony, before rejoining his wife and turning their attention to the waiting fans in the crowd, who again cheered as they walked through the clock tower.

- Marlborough

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