Friday, 14 Jun 2024

Prince William thanks British troops during surprise visit to Poland

Prince William thanks British troops for ‘defending our freedoms’ as he makes surprise visit to Poland just miles from the Ukrainian border

  • Prince William visited the base in Rzeszow as part of a super secret trip today 

The Prince of Wales has met British troops and thanked them for ‘defending our freedoms’ during a surprise visit to Poland just miles from the Ukrainian border.

Prince William, 40, told troops on Wednesday ‘everyone back home thoroughly supports you’ after travelling amid massive security to the country.

As he spoke to Brits, the prince hailed the ‘incredible’ air defence weapons on show at a top secret military base, which is home to 75 Brits working with Polish and US allies and is just 50 miles from Ukraine’s border.

The Britons are part of the first line of defence against Vladimir Putin’s brutal war on NATO’s eastern flank.

Prince William’s trip to Rzeszow, a city in south-eastern Poland, was ‘a personal mission’ to ‘recognise their duty’ of service personnel largely consisting of the Royal Artillery Regiment, sources close to the future King said.

The Prince of Wales met British troops and thanked them for ‘defending our freedoms’ during a surprise visit to Poland just miles from the Ukrainian border

Prince William, 40, told troops on Wednesday ‘everyone back home thoroughly supports you’ after travelling amid massive security to the country

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He also got up close and personal to see Britain’s high-tech surface-to-air Sky Sabre missile defence system deployed near the border during his trip, which for security reasons, had been shrouded in total secrecy.

It is his first trip to Poland since visiting with his wife Catherine in 2017.

Dressed casually in a black puffer jacket, shirt and navy trousers, Prince William addressed the troops in the shadow of two fully armed missile launchers.

Speaking without a script, he told the assembled troops: ‘I know how busy you all are. Thank you for hosting me today, I just wanted to come here in person to say thank you for all that you are doing, keeping everyone safe out here and keeping an eye on what’s going on. 

‘So just a big thank you for what you do on a day-to-day basis.

‘I know some of you are coming to the end of your time out here so looking forward to a bit of R and R when you get home.

‘But you are doing a really good job out here, defending our freedoms is really important and everyone back home thoroughly supports you.

‘And everything you are doing with our Polish counterparts in providing that safety is really important, so thank you for your time, lovely to meet you all and good luck.’

The prince spent 20 minutes speaking with service personnel inside a military tent. They described how they spent 26 weeks training to use the Sky Sabre kit.

Major Richard Kaye, of The Royal Artillery said ‘We are here to protect critical national infrastructure in the region in support of the West’s ongoing support to Ukraine.

‘It’s absolutely welcome and we are privileged to host His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.

‘The reason he has come is to show his support as he does to many military deployments as he can.’

Earlier today the Prince paid a surprise visit to Poland’s 3rd Brigade Territorial Defence Force at a military base in Rzeszów.

The prince spent 20 minutes speaking with service personnel inside a military tent. They described how they spent 26 weeks training to use the Sky Sabre kit. (Pictured: William and Kate enjoy a glass of Guinness after the St. Patrick’s Day Parade at Mons Barracks on March 17, 2023 in Aldershot, England) 

It was an incredibly special moment for British army medic, Lance Corporal Molly Pettifer, 28, who revealed that her grandmother’s friend delivered Prince William at birth.

LCpl Pettifer, who is from Enfield, in north London, met the prince as he visited, a city in the south-east of the country.

She said: ‘I’ve never met any royalty before, so it was very exciting.

‘It meant a lot to meet [the prince]. It was quite special. My nan’s friend delivered him as a baby. I thought that was quite funny.’

She said she might share the encounter with her grandmother’s friend later on.

LCpl Pettifer, who is two weeks into a six-month tour of Poland, said she told Prince William about her work training troops in first aid.

The prince wore a grey blazer, shirt, navy chinos and brown brogue-style shoes for the visit.

On arrival, the prince was greeted by Poland’s defence minister and deputy prime minister Mariusz Blaszczak, who wore a brown leather jacket, shirt and black trousers.

William donned his uniform and smiled as he met children during St Patrick’s Day celebrations last week 

The deputy prime minister gave a speech in which he expressed his gratitude for the co-operation between British and Polish troops.

The prince spent time speaking to Mr Blaszczak and local dignitaries before meeting several groups of British and Polish troops to hear about their work supporting Ukraine.

He was shown a vast array of military equipment, including a Polish self-propelled howitzer artillery system that had a British turret.

Major Przemyslaw Garema, 35, a professional soldier in the brigade showed the prince the enormous artillery machine.

‘It is very important equipment which Poland donated at the beginning of the war to the Ukraine, we delivered a few batteries then.

‘We have been training the Ukrainian soldiers in order to teach them how to use this.’

Asked what Prince William’s visit meant to him, he said: ‘It is great that our work and our effort is visible to the world. It was my first time meeting him.

‘I am very excited about that and it is a great moment for me.’

Founded in 2017, the Territorial Defence Force – Poland’s equivalent of Britain’s Territorial Army – is made up of professional soldiers and part-time volunteers, who join military service to bolster national defences and protect their local communities.

Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022 became a national call to arms for scores of ordinary Poles, who, appalled by the attack on their neighbour, rushed to offer their services to the military.

The prince met a taxi driver and a college student, both Polish volunteers in the TDF, who told him about how they balanced their outside work with their military service.

British forces are training Polish counterparts bolstering defences after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Troops have been training Poles in air defence for almost a year.

Rzeszow is the dropping off point for all aid and hardware to Ukraine and is 62 miles from the border.The region is also protected is surrounded by US-made Patriot missile air defence and Polish air defences.

Earlier this month, Poland ramped up its support for its Ukraine by announcing it would send four of its MiG-29 fighter jets to the country, making it the first of Kyiv’s allies to provide the aircraft, which Ukraine see as crucial to repelling the Russian invasion.

A Kensington Palace spokesman said: ‘The Prince of Wales was very keen to travel to Poland to thank British and Polish troops for their support in relation to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.’

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