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The Duke of Rothesay visits army personnel in Scotland

13th June 2013

The Duke of Rothesay during his visit to the Erskine Home and Army Personnel Recovery Centre in Edinburgh.

The Duke of Rothesay during his visit to the Erskine Home and Army Personnel Recovery Centre in Edinburgh.

The Prince of Wales heard personal stories of survival as he visited a service for wounded soldiers on his final day of engagements in Scotland.

His Royal Highness met recovering servicemen and women when he toured the Edinburgh House personnel recovery centre.

The service is the only residential recovery centre for serving soldiers in Scotland and is run in partnership with the Ministry of Defence and The Royal British Legion.

The Prince, known in Scotland as The Duke of Rothesay, spoke with veterans including Paul Lambert, who lost both legs and suffered severe internal injuries during his first tour of Afghanistan in 2009.

The Duke praised Mr Lambert as a "great example". The 32-year-old was serving with the Royal Scots Borderers (1 SCOTS) in Sangin province when he stepped on an improvised explosive device with his left leg and took the full force of the blast.

He spoke to The Duke about the courses at the centre that are helping him to adjust to civilian life after eight years in the Army.

"I actually met Prince Charles when I was in intensive care, he came to see me," he said. "Today he was asking me how my rehab was getting on and how my prosthetic legs were coming on.

"When I get out of the Army I want to work with The Prince's Trust. I want to work with kids who have been either injured, have had cancer or meningitis, and who have lost limbs. When I told him he said 'very good'. It's good for the centre to have him here."

The centre helps those who are wounded in operations abroad but also looks after sick and injured personnel.

The Duke spoke with resident John Vuatalevu, 35, who is recovering after breaking his leg during service in Canada. Mr Vuatalevu, who is originally from Fiji and has served for 11 years in the Army, said he was proud to have met The Duke.

He added: "It was really a special day for me. To meet him in my room was really exciting for me. He walked in and said, 'Finally you guys find a Fijian'. We started talking and he said he was really proud that I am serving.

"He said, 'Thank you very much serving in our Army'. He said, 'You gave us 11 years, that is a lot of years'. It was really nice."

Mark Steed, commanding officer of the centre, said: "The Prince of Wales is a massive patron of the armed forces at large but particularly those who are injured, wounded or sick, so I think it was a massively significant visit for those individuals who use the recovery centre and great to see him here.

"The take away for us was to see the depth of his interest and he made a point of speaking to everyone in some depth, which was great.

"A lot of what we try to do is to build the self-confidence and self-esteem of people and I think for them to see a person like Prince Charles taking an interest and having an opportunity to chat really does boost their self esteem."

Earlier, The Duke met veterans, staff and volunteers at the nearby Erskine Home in Edinburgh. His Royal Highness toured the building and spoke with residents, many of whom were in full military uniform for the visit.

Chief executive Steve Conway said: "Prince Charles has been our Patron since 1986 and this was his first opportunity to see the facility here. "Our residents have all served their Queen and country, sometimes in conflict, so they are very patriotic and really excited about seeing His Royal Highness today.

"They were all up very early this morning getting ready and getting their medals out. It means so much to all of us that he's here today."

The Duke wore a light grey suit for the visit, with a Royal Naval tie and lapel pins for the Black Watch and the Highlanders.

His Royal Highness was piped aboard minehunter HMS Bangor on a later visit to the Royal Navy base on the Clyde.

The Duke toured the Sandown Class ship stationed at Faslane in Argyll and met staff working at the largest military base in Scotland. HMS Bangor was deployed off Libya in 2011 as part of the Nato operation to protect civilians under threat of attack. His Royal Highness enjoyed a naval career and was commanding officer of minesweeper HMS Bronington in the 1970s.

On the tour today, he saw the advances in technology and materials currently employed by the Sandown Class.

HMS Bronington was constructed with a mahogany hull so as not to trigger mines, but HMS Bangor uses glass-reinforced plastic.

The ship's commanding officer Toby Shaunessy said: "As a former commanding officer of a minesweeper, His Royal Highness was particularly interested in the latest technology and we were able to show him our Seafox mine disposal system.

"It was also great to have the opportunity to speak with him about some of the current operations the First Mine Counter Measures Squadron is engaged in around the world.

"I think he was impressed by the high tempo of our work and the dedication and sacrifices which the crews make in order to protect the UK's interests worldwide."

During the Libya operation, HMS Bangor found a 2,400lb mine and a torpedo lying on the seabed off the port of Tobruk. Both were destroyed by the ship's remote-controlled Sea Fox disposal vehicle. Lieutenant Commander Shaunessy, 39, from near Portsmouth, said The Duke appeared particularly interested in the Sea Fox, which the officer described as "a mini submarine" which is deployed from the ship to investigate the seabed.

"We were able to give him a demonstration and show him the vehicle, and he was interested to see how they had progressed," he said.

The Duke joined the Royal Navy College at Dartmouth in 1971. He now holds the title of Admiral of the Fleet.

The Duke chats to naval staff at the mess in Faslane Naval Base on the Clyde.

The Duke chats to naval staff at the mess in Faslane Naval Base on the Clyde.

Later, His Royal Highness painted a prosthetic hand and a giant paper dragon as he toured the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) in Glasgow.

The Duke, who is Patron of the arts academy, visited the Speirs Lock studios and met staff and students in the costume, stage design, music and dance departments.

He helped out in the props room by painting veins on to a prosthetic severed hand.

Senior props maker Martin Mallorie said The Duke was "very interested" in the students' work.

He said: "He was actually quite good at it.

"We brought out some of the props from previous shows and some gruesome ones that we are working on, and I showed him how to apply the make-up to make it look more life-like.

"He has an obvious keen interest in all of the arts and understood how each role from costumes and props plays a part in the final production of any performance."

The Duke then helped students touch up a giant dragon made of paper and plastic that was made for the West End Festival in Glasgow last weekend.

The RCS is now looking for a new home for the 12ft (3.6m) creation and is re-decorating it before moving it on. In the dance department The Duke watched a ballet class featuring a range of performers from the "tiny tots" group who are taught on a Saturday to recently graduated students.

Dancer Claire Richardson, 15, said: "I think we were all nervous and excited at the same time. He told us that he really enjoyed it so that's nice.

"We were told a couple of weeks ago that there was a VIP guest coming but only found out who it was last week.

"Afterwards, he was asking how long we had been doing ballet and if we wanted to do it professionally."

Before leaving the Conservatoire, The Duke was presented with an original score of Walfrid, On His Arrival At The Gates of Paradise, composed by former student James MacMillan.

Mr MacMillan joined students in a performance of the folk-based piece and was delighted to have a Royal audience.

He said: "I was asked a few weeks ago if I could think of a bit of music that the traditional musicians could play together for the visit and Walfrid came to mind.

"It has strong Scottish and Irish influences, and fits well with the students. I wrote it in 2005 and haven't played it too much since, so it was a real thrill to pick up the penny whistle and join in with the students.

"The Prince seemed to really enjoy it and he was particularly keen to talk to the cello players because he had lessons on that when he was younger."