Vets give Prince thumbs up

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 10:35 11/04/2014

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Prince William made an impact on the veterans who met him during the wreath-laying ceremony in Blenheim's Seymour Square.

Talking at lunch at the Returned and Services' Association rooms at the Clubs of Marlborough, veterans commented on how relaxed he was, and, as an ex-serviceman himself, how well he did the ceremony.

Ron Hemming said Prince William was very jovial.

"I asked him ‘do you mind if I ask you a question, sir?' and he said ‘not at all'. I said that I'd heard he'd given up the forces, was that true?

"He said he had. He used to fly helicopters, but he's got his own plane, he said."

Mr Hemming said the prince was very easy to talk with.

"I was surprised he was so relaxed. I know he's got a tedious job. I didn't speak to Kate. My grandchildren will ring me tonight to hear all about it."

Veteran Pipi Boyd's meeting with the prince was a talking point, although he was a little embarrassed and didn't want to say too much.

"I told the prince I was a loyalist royalist . . ." And then he went on to ask Prince William if he had "a few bob" he could give him, and tried to do a special handshake before the prince had to move on.

Marlborough RSA vice-president Rod Shoemark said the event was "amazing". "I thought the public response as soon as they hopped out of the car was appropriate and it just got better from there."

He said he was proud of how Marlborough veterans fronted up and behaved. The royal couple were relaxed and spent "so much" time with them, he said.

"That Pipi Boyd, he's a real character."

Commander of the New Zealand Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating said it was a neat day.

"Sometimes in the military, we think ‘this is just another parade', but I saw these young guys realise this is the future king and queen and they were part of the ceremony ... It was wonderful, a neat day. Military people feel very proud to have been part of this day." Keating said Prince William was an ex-serviceman too, and he was comfortable in the environment and with the protocol.

He had been able to reassure his wife the duchess on the Hercules military freight plane that all was being done right, he said.

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- The Marlborough Express

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