William and Kate land in Cyprus as they make whirlwind visit to RAF base to bring festive cheer to military personnel spending Christmas away from their families
Duke and Duchess of Cambridge fly to RAF base in Cyprus to honour military personnel serving overseas
William and Kate are meeting men and women separated from their loved ones over the festive period
It comes a day after they staged party for families from RAF bases who have a relative deployed abroad
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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived today in Cyprus for a whirlwind visit to bring festive cheer to RAF personnel who will be away from their families this Christmas.
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William and Kate, both 36, touched down at RAF Akrotiri on the government’s Voyager aircraft, which is used by the Royal Family and ministers, after making the five-hour flight from the UK.
Kate looked elegantly casual in wide-legged trousers, a white silk shirt and a khaki jacket, with her hair half swept off her face. The couple’s special ‘Royal Mail’ flight was loaded with gifts and cards for staff from their families.
Many had been given to them yesterday at a party they threw at Kensington Palace for the wives, husbands, children and parents of men and women from RAF Coningsby and RAF Marham, who will be spending Christmas away from home.
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RAF Akrotiri is the home of the Cyprus Operations Support Unit which provides joint support to British Forces Cyprus and operations in the region to protect the UK’s strategic interests.
Although they are visiting an RAF base in William’s role as Honorary Air Commandant of RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, the couple’s two days of engagements have been designed as a way of recognising all the 7,500 military personnel currently serving overseas or away from home.
An aide said the prince had been very keen to do something for the RAF community for some time.
Yesterday he and Kate enjoyed a fake snowball fight at the party in the palace’s temporary Orangery cafe, played games and helped the the children make Christmas cards and treats.
The event was supported by The Royal British Legion in recognition of the sacrifices serving personnel and their families make year round, and especially when they are separated during the festive period.
The palace’s orangery café had been turned into a winter wonderland, with a fake snow machine, decorations including giant crackers and even a real life Father Christmas.
There was also a photo booth and a post box so that guests could take pictures and send messages to their loved ones in Cyprus.
Among the families there were Barrie and Ann Macdonald from Manchester who are looking after their grandson Harry, five, in Coningsby while his mum, Claire – their daughter – and dad Paul, both wing commanders, are away in Afghanistan and Cyprus respectively.
Kate paid tribute to the couple for moving in to look after Harry, whose father will not be home until January and mother until February. ‘So you are looking after Harry, are you? It’s amazing that families pull together like this,’ she said.
In a speech the duchess also spoke about life as a service wife with a husband posted abroad.
She recalled being left at home when William was serving as an RAF search and rescue helicopter pilot, not least when he spent six weeks in the Falklands in February and March 2012.
She said: ‘William and I just wanted to pass on our huge gratitude to all of you here today. Not only are we grateful for you coming here to join our party, but also for the sacrifices you make on a daily basis on behalf of the nation.’
‘As someone whose husband has served, I know how hard it feels when a loved one leaves home to do the job they’ve trained for. When William served in the Falklands or went search and rescue, I remember how it felt.
‘But I can’t imagine how it feels when your loved ones are away on active service over Christmas or at those special family moments. ‘The absence of people you love must be especially hard at this time of year.
‘William and I, however, hope that today shows, in some small way, how much you are all valued. ‘We should never forget our military families and all the service you do for us all.’
William is Honorary Air Commandant of RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, which is home to Typhoon squadrons which deploy to Cyprus and fly operations in support of Op Shader, the UK’s contribution to the ongoing campaign against Islamic State.
They work alongside 31 Squadron, a Tornado GR4 unit based at RAF Marham in Norfolk, which is also involved with the campaign.
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