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Duke back on duty after scare

Philip visits hostel for homeless veterans

By Tony Jones

The Duke of Edinburgh showed he had lost none of his wit despite a recent health scare as he joked with homeless Army veterans on an official visit yesterday.

Philip, who turns 95 next week, was in good spirits as he visited New Belvedere House, the flagship hostel of the Veterans Aid organisation, in London.

At one point he asked former soldiers playing on a snooker table: "When are they going to throw you out?" To which he got the reply: "As soon as possible."

The official visit was the Duke's first public engagement since he cancelled an appearance at an event marking the First World War's Battle of Jutland for health reasons.

When he arrived at the hostel, Philip smiled broadly as he was greeted first by Ken Olisa, Lord-Lieutenant for Greater London, and then retired Wing Commander Dr Hugh Milroy, chief executive of Veterans Aid.

The Duke spent half-an-hour talking to supporters, trustees and veterans staying at the hostel, which provides accommodation for 55 former members of the Armed Forces.

He chatted to Ross Defreitas, a former Territorial Army serviceman who has been at the hostel since last August. The 30-year-old told Philip he had been with 94 Signal Squadron for two-and-a-half years, after which the Duke quipped: "Enough for you, or for them?" Mr Defreitas laughed as he said: "Enough for them". The royal guest also met Nathan Rooke (25), who once guarded members of the royal family while on duty at Buckingham Palace. The former soldier told how he broke down in tears after walking into the charity's office because he could not believe the kindness shown to him.

The ex-Air Trooper with 4 Regiment, Army Air Corps, said: "They told me to go downstairs and grab something to eat. I burst into tears and said I wasn't used to somebody helping me."

After securing a place at the centre, Mr Rooke got a sound engineer apprenticeship and now works for top-selling artists. "From here, things have really gone from strength to strength," he said.

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