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Harry and Philip meet veterans at Field of Remembrance

Prince Harry has paid tribute to the nation's war dead, and shared a tender moment with a young boy honouring his fallen uncle, ahead of Armistice Day.

Harry and his grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh, visited Westminster Abbey's Field of Remembrance to lay small wooden crosses in memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

The event was the 32-year-old Prince's first public engagement since he confirmed that US actress Meghan Markle is his girlfriend.

Harry, dressed in his Household Division frock coat and peaked cap, looked relaxed and at ease as he chatted to veterans from conflicts past and present.

The Prince's relationship with the Suits star, which began a few months ago, was announced by his communications secretary, Jason Knauf, in a strongly worded statement which described the ''wave of abuse and harassment'' she has experienced since the couple's news broke.

Mr Knauf revealed the depth of Harry's feelings for his girlfriend when he said in the statement that the Prince was ''worried about Ms Markle's safety'' and ''deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her''.

But Harry looked comfortable throughout Thursday's event in central London, walking with his hands clasped behind his back and sharing a joke with many of those who had waited patiently while surrounded by 60,000 tiny wooden crosses in more than 380 plots representing military regiments, units, organisations and other groups.

He stopped to talk to six-year-old Harrison Degiorgio-Lewis, whose uncle, Lieutenant Aaron Lewis, of 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, was killed in Afghanistan in December 2008 when insurgents attacked a forward operation base he jointly commanded with Danish troops.

The youngster, accompanied by his grandmother, Helen Lewis, was proudly wearing his uncle's campaign medals and his beret and pointed them out to the Prince.

Mrs Lewis said: "We remember Aaron every day and miss him every day. It was lovely to speak to Prince Harry about Aaron.

"A charity set up in his memory is helping veterans that have been injured, both combat injuries and those with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Our charity has even helped some of the guys that competed in Harry's Invictus Games and we were talking about that."

Staff Sergeant Robert Nicholas, a bomb disposal expert from the Corps of Royal Engineers, personally thanked Harry for the protection he offered troops in his role as an Apache helicopter pilot during his tour of Afghanistan.

The soldier, who has served many times in Afghanistan and Iraq during his 18-year military career, said: "We were vulnerable on the ground and he's provided that support, I just thanked him myself for that protection he gave everyone while he was there."

When they first arrived in the grounds of Westminster Abbey the two royal men stood in silence, as did the hundreds of veterans around them, when the Last Post was played.

Later Harry and his grandfather spent an hour touring the various plots of crosses and chatted to the many veterans and servicemen and women who stood patiently waiting to meet them.

The Prince met one of the last surviving members of the SAS who fought in France in 1944, Alec Borrie.

The veteran told him: "I was in 1SAS," and Harry replied "I can tell that by looking" in reference to the beige beret the former soldier was wearing.

Mr Borrie, from Slade Green, south east London, served with the SAS from January 1944 until November 1945, taking part in Operation Houndsworth, which caused havoc behind German lines around Dijon in the weeks after D-Day.

"We made a nuisance of ourselves," he said afterwards. "What we did mostly was ambush convoys, and arrange drops for the local resistance.

"But it caused a lot of problems for the French people. If we shot up a convoy, they [the Germans] would shoot up a village in retaliation. But the French thought the world of us."


From Belfast Telegraph