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Harry thanks soldiers for flood rescue efforts after storms

Prince Harry has met soldiers deployed to flood-ravaged regions which were left devastated by the recent storms to thank them for their efforts in aiding recovery.

He visited Weeton Barracks, where he spoke with personnel from the 2nd Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, who were sent to town and villages in Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cumbria left underwater.

He told them it was "a great opportunity" to meet soldiers who had given up their Christmases to help others, adding: "It's been an emotional month for you."

For more than four weeks in December, every member of the battalion - approximately 500 soldiers from the base near Blackpool, Lancashire - was positioned to help deal with the crisis.

The huge Army presence was drafted in to help flood-affected areas in Carlisle, Keswick, Kendal, Cockermouth, Appleby and Glenridding in Cumbria, and St Michael's in Lancashire.

Many residents were evacuated from their homes and businesses, which were left underwater following the deluge of water from storms Desmond, Eva, Frank and Gertrude.

The Prince heard that the troops worked tirelessly as they went from door to door to check on residents and supported the recovery work.

As a county, Lancashire was one of the worst affected by December's unprecedented flooding. It proved to be the wettest December on record.

More than 1,700 businesses and homes were left damaged across its 12 districts.

Prince Harry, who was dressed in jeans, sand-coloured boots and a blue hoodie, looked relaxed as he spoke to the soldiers.

Lieutenant Peter Coates told the Prince their work had been "challenging", but added: "It was unexpected - but we just got on with the job."

Prince Harry asked Corporal Joseph Greenwood what it had been like on the ground of the affected areas, and he described it as a humbling experience.

Cpl Greenwood added: "We might have lost our Christmas but we haven't lost our homes, our possessions and our photographs. We can move our Christmas."

Prince Harry commended their efforts and later joked with officers: "If it's not raining, it's not training, as they say," which is a known saying in the Army.

He had a joke with Kingsman Adam Coar, who had told him he had been invited into one family's house and offered Christmas dinner.

Kingsman Mark Sutton said: "He (Kingsman Coar) told him that when he was in Appleby he got invited in for Christmas dinner. Harry said 'It looks like you have had a few too many Christmas dinners!'."

Kingsman Coar added: "I laughed - I found it funny."

Outside, almost 200 school children from the barracks' on-site primary school and nursery had lined the entrance to the Warrant Officers' and Sergeants' Mess to greet Prince Harry as he arrived in his Land Rover.

The children - of which the majority live on site - had only been told minutes before that they would be seeing "a real-life prince".

Many of the children did not get to see their parents over Christmas, because of the floods.

As he approached, the children, who had been marched to their viewing spot, began to shout and wave.

Prince Harry took time out to shake hands and greet the school children, who asked him "what's your favourite football team?," "where's your crown?" and "how much money do you have?"

Harry told the children that he could not answer the last question.

Weeton Primary School head teacher Anthony Goff said: "Some of the children knew that Prince Harry was visiting the camp but they didn't know that they were seeing him. I announced it 10 minutes before in assembly and said we were going to see the prince. They started celebrating and we had the usual questions like will he be wearing his crown.

"Some of their parents will be inside meeting him so it's nice for the children because they didn't get to see their parents over Christmas.

"It's a nice way of repaying the children because on Christmas Day many woke up without their parents, who were helping out."

He added that they were having a new school built and hoped that Prince Harry would "put in a good word" with the Queen to see if she would officially open it.

Mr Goff said: "Year 5 have been writing to the Queen to see if she will come and officially open the school. I have told the children to be on their best behaviour so he would put in a good word with his grandmother."

Pupil Kian Wright, 10, said of the Prince: "He has a very posh accent, I thought he would be dressed posh in a tuxedo."

Harry asked if any of their homes had been flooded and how their parents helped.

Serena Talemaitoya, 11, whose father was deployed, said it had been "sad" at Christmas but added: "I knew he was going to other places and saving people, I was very proud of him."

Fellow pupil Laura Lewis said: "I thought he was very charming - I was going to wink at him."

Seven-year-old Holly Clark said: "I thought he wasn't a prince because he didn't have his crown. Kian said 'How much money?' ... He said 'I can't answer that question'."


From Belfast Telegraph