Belfast Telegraph

Duchess of Cornwall meets families of soldiers working in Iraq

The Duchess of Cornwall has met families of soldiers currently deployed in Iraq before opening a hospital's children's cancer unit.

Camilla visited Normandy Barracks in Aldershot, Hampshire, where she placed a posy on the 4 Rifles Memorial Wall, which includes the names of those killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan.

She was then welcomed by a fanfare by buglers before attending a reception in the Serjeants Mess with families, soldiers, battalion veterans and injured servicemen.

She also presented five long-service medals and a meritorious service medal to serving Riflemen before signing a visitors' book.

The 4th Battalion the Rifles (4 Rifles), commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Carl Boswell, currently has 250 Riflemen based at Al Asad Air Base, 100 miles west of Baghdad, providing training support to the Iraqi army.

The Duchess wished everyone a happy Christmas and said: "What a pleasure it has been to come to these new barracks, everyone seems to be very settled here.

"The partners of those serving abroad are doing a great job of supporting each other."

Joanna Metcalf, attended with her daughters, Ruby, 11, and Florence, four, while her husband, Serjeant Major Stephen Metcalf, is on deployment in Iraq.

The 36-year-old from Church Crookham, Hampshire, said: "It was really nice to meet the Duchess, it's nice to know that people do support us and it's nice for the children to meet someone important as it gives them an idea of the importance of their father's role."

She added: "My husband is away until February, it's the first time he's been away for Christmas so we're not looking forward to it and Florence is starting to miss him."

Ruby said: "It was really good to meet her, it makes me feel really proud of my dad."

Warrant Officer Richard Brown, 46, from Lisburn, Northern Ireland, was presented with his Meritorious Service Medal by the Duchess.

He said: "It's great for morale to have a visit from the Royal Colonel, she likes to be part of the regimental family and the battalion in particular."

The Duchess then went on to visit Southampton Children's Hospital to open the cancer unit Piam Brown which has undergone a £1.7 million seven-month refurbishment.

At the Southampton hospital, the Duchess met patients, fundraisers, nurses and families before touring the unit and taking in the consulting rooms, clinic, day ward and teenage games room.

A hospital spokesman said: "The unit, which sees more than 120 new patients a year from across the south of England, was originally opened in 1988.

"Since then it has become a national and European centre of excellence for neuroblastoma and the development of immunotherapy treatments, with Dr Juliet Gray, a consultant in paediatric oncology, the UK's representative on the European Neuroblastoma Research Group.

"The additional beds provided by the refurbishment offer the potential for the unit to take part in more clinical studies and the opportunity for children from outside the region to come to the hospital for novel immunotherapy trials which are not available in other centres."

During her visit, four-year-old Phelan Jordan showed the Duchess his picture of a car and nearly gave it to her but when Camilla asked if it was for her he explained it was his picture.

The Duchess also met Alicia Cole, 11, who won a drawing competition run by Southampton Children's Hospital Charity and who presented her with a framed copy of her artwork.

Camilla also attended a reception for supporters where she unveiled a plaque to officially open the new ward.

At the reception, she also met MasterChef winner Shelina Permalloo, Southampton Children's Hospital Charity's first charity champion.

The Duchess said: "I just wanted to congratulate everybody who's been involved with this wonderful refurbishment of the Piam Brown Ward, I can just see what a wonderful job it is doing for children with this illness.

"I've had a friend before who's had a child on this ward so I just know how wonderfully well they are looked after and I think this new ward will make all the difference, and so I am very proud and pleased to be here today."


From Belfast Telegraph