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World Cup fortunes among subjects discussed at RAF ‘family’ gathering

Members of the royal family mingled with service personnel past and present at a reception to mark the centenary of the junior service.

The fortunes of England’s World Cup football team did not escape the Duke of Cambridge as he attended a reception celebrating 100 years of the Royal Air Force.

William, a keen Aston Villa fan and also President of the Football Association, was among a party of senior royals who met veterans, personnel, charity representatives and those from the civil service at a Buckingham Palace reception.

William chatted to Edinburgh-born veteran and former wing commander John ‘Jock’ Heatherill, 95, about flying and football.

Mr Heatherill’s daughter Nicola Hughes said: “They were chatting and in the end he (William) was making sure that dad supports the England team, although he is from Edinburgh.”

England play Croatia in the World Cup semi-final on Wednesday.

Mr Heatherill, who now lives near Rutland, joined the RAF in 1942.

He served in a Halifax squadron that was part of bomber command which operated against German targets during the war.

The reception, also attended by the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall plus the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, was part of a day of special celebrations including a fly past over Buckingham Palace featuring both historical and modern aircraft plus a service at Westminster Abbey.

After speaking to William, Mr Heatherill said: “He was lovely. Then I always thought he would be a good chap because he was in the RAF.”

Mr Heatherill said he enjoyed the fly past and described the overall event as a “tremendous day”.

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Members of the royal family watch the fly past (Paul Grover/Daily Telegraph/PA)

He added: “It is nice to be involved.

“I was embarrassed by the attention people have paid to me because I was only one of many others that have been left behind.”

Thinking back to the war, he said: “There was such a sense of purpose.

“We were fighting for king and country. There was adrenaline and you wanted to do a good job.”

Squadron Leader Jade Richards said speaking to Harry and Meghan at the reception “was another surreal moment on a surreal day.”

The squadron leader recalled that Harry enjoyed some military banter, saying: “He did make a joke about the Army being better than the air force at netball despite him being (there and then) in an RAF uniform.

“It just shows how relaxed they are.

“He gets it. He is someone who has served.

“You automatically have that bond, I think, because you have had similar experiences to one another.”

She said Meghan seemed interested in the conversation.

Of the fly past, she said: “We could not have had a better day.

“It was nice to see historical and modern aircraft in a fly past together, especially where it marked out 100 at the end.

“It was a special touch.”

Flight Lieutenant Miranda Cope said: “We both had friends and colleagues who were involved in that fly past as well so knowing they were flying that aircraft above was just a really nice feeling.

“It is a big family.”

She added: “They smashed it.

“I think you are always proud of wearing your uniform but on a day like today, with it being such a public affair, it is nice to know that other people are proud.”

She was also touched by the crowds who came out to support the event and everyone who was one parade.

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