The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took a trip down memory lane today, visiting old friends in North Wales where they lived after they married.
William and Kate met some of the duke’s former colleagues from when he worked as a search and rescue pilot based at RAF Valley on Anglesey.
The unit has now moved from the island to a new base, HM Coastguard Search and Rescue Caernarfon, on the mainland and is run by Bristow Helicopters, which took over the contract from the military, but still with some of the same crew from William’s time as a helicopter pilot.
William told his old crew that he does miss his old job, which involved flying rescue missions in all kinds of weather and terrain.
Coastguard helicopter winchman Paul Jones and his wife Gemma, were with their son’s, Finlay, 12, and Alex, aged nine, who were much younger the last time Kate and William saw them.
Mr Jones said: “It’s lovely to see him, we worked very closely for three years and then he moved away.
“It was like he’s never been away.”
The royal couple also clambered aboard the Coastguard’s new £30 million Sikorsky S92 helicopter, which replaced Sea King helicopters used during William’s time with the unit.
Both royal visitors sat in the cockpit as they were told about the aircraft’s capabilities and performance during the around 300 or so rescue missions undertaken each year from Caernarfon.
Rich Taylor, a winchman who served with William and met him again today said: “It was great. It was a real honour and privilege. He’s a very nice guy, very engaging, very professional.
“He worked very hard obviously to keep a balance in the world’s he’s within. He was outstanding in his role as a pilot.”
William and Kate also joined a discussion with Coastguard crew members and staff from Wales Air Ambulance, about the mental health challenges that result from working as emergency personnel.
Mr Taylor added: “He’s been involved first hand with some awful situations as anyone who works in this search and rescue or air ambulance will have been, so he knows first hand the effects it can have on people.
“When we worked with William it was a real honour and a privilege and that continues that he’s taken the time out to come and see us and have a look around and catch up again.
“I think like anybody involved in aviation, especially emergency services and support and helping others, it’s a passion, it’s a vocation, so I can understand he does miss it.”
William and Kate spent around 90 minutes at the base before shaking hands and saying goodbyes as they travelled to their next stop on the royal visit at Halen Mon Anglesey Sea Salt, a local business on Anglesey.
The royal couple completed their visit to North Wales by joining schoolchildren in a beach clean-up organised by the Isle of Anglesey County Council and marine conservation group Surfers Against Sewage.
The group aims to reduce the impact of single-use plastics, such as straws, bottles, sachets and balloons, through its Plastic Free Anglesey campaign.
Before they embarked on the litter pick at Newborough Beach with pupils from Ysgol Santes Dwynwen, Sian Sykes, of Surfers Against Sewage, told them: “This is some stuff that we have collected. These are cotton buds that have been flushed down the toilet, and these take 150 years to break down.
“What we want you guys to do today is rummage through the seaweed because with the incoming tide it brings up some plastic.”
The duke asked: “Have you done testing for microplastics here?”
Ms Sykes replied: “This is a tiny bit of the microplastics we have been finding which is quite frightening to see, but the Bangor University has been getting involved in a lot of research which is great.”
The royal couple then crouched down with the pupils to uncover plastics which were noted down as part of a survey.
Wet wipes, balloons, flip flops and fishing lines were among the finds as Kate asked George Boyce, 10, if he watched Sir David Attenborough.
Kate said: “He’s amazing, isn’t he. Which programmes do you like of his?”
The youngster replied: “Blue Planet.”
Ms Sykes said it was “wonderful” that the royal couple had returned to the area.
She said: “We want to inspire people who come to visit Anglesey.
“What I would ask people is to bring reusable bottles, bring reusable coffee cups, help out with beach cleans and boycott single use plastics.”
The duke and duchess also explored the beach’s wildlife habitat with the Menai Bridge Scout Group.
Kate, who previously volunteered with the Scouts during her time in Anglesey, told the group how the couple used to collect mussels when they lived there.
William asked the group: “What’s the coolest thing you have found out on the beach?”
Finlay Burke, 12, replied: “A bullet.”
A surprised Kate said: “Really? Where did you find that?”
Finlay said: “In the water.”