News story

The Duke of York visits troops in Helmand

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

His Royal Highness The Duke of York has travelled to Afghanistan where he met with British troops serving in Helmand province.

The Duke flew into Camp Bastion on Saturday and stayed overnight at the base. On Sunday morning he had a breakfast meeting with the Commander of Joint Force Support (Afghanistan), Air Commodore John Bessell, when they discussed the deployment of equipment back to the UK.

After breakfast he visited medical staff at the military hospital before travelling to the Joint Aviation Group (JAG). After speaking with the Commander of the JAG, Group Captain Frazer Nicholson, he was able to meet with personnel from 857 Naval Air Squadron and reflect on his previous naval career experience compared to the unit’s modern-day role.

857 Naval Air Squadron operates the Royal Navy’s Sea King Mk7 airborne surveillance and control helicopters in support of operations across central Helmand, using the sophisticated radar system to provide intelligence to ground forces.

At the JAG he also met Lynx and Apache helicopter air crew from the Army Air Corps. The Duke then flew by helicopter to Main Operating Base Lashkar Gah, where he met with the Commander of Task Force Helmand, Brigadier Rupert Jones.

The Duke of York on board a Chinook helicopter
His Royal Highness The Duke of York on board a Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan [Picture: Sergeant Barry Pope RLC, Crown copyright]

Brigadier Jones gave a briefing on the work of the Task Force in support of the Afghan security forces who are leading on security in central Helmand for the first time this summer.

While at Lashkar Gah, His Royal Highness also visited the Police Mentoring and Advisory Group (PMAG). Formed from 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (2 SCOTS), the PMAG supports the Afghan police as they progress towards providing enduring security across Helmand.

The Duke, who is Royal Colonel of 2 SCOTS, then took the opportunity to travel on to the Lashkar Gah Training Centre, where the Afghan police train their new recruits, to see at first-hand the work of the battalion.

Captain Iain Curren, Adjutant of 2 SCOTS, said:

It was a privilege to host His Royal Highness The Duke of York during his visit to 2 SCOTS. On each occasion the battalion has deployed to Afghanistan His Royal Highness has shown us tremendous support by visiting both the soldiers in Afghanistan and our families back in Scotland.

After enjoying lunch with members of 2 SCOTS, the Duke returned to Camp Bastion and visited personnel from the Force Protection Wing.

The Duke of York with members of the Joint Aviation Group in Afghanistan
His Royal Highness The Duke of York with members of the Joint Aviation Group in Afghanistan [Picture: Sergeant Barry Pope RLC, Crown copyright]

His Royal Highness then left Helmand and flew to Kandahar Airfield, the home of the Royal Air Force’s 904 Expeditionary Air Wing. There he visited personnel from the Tornado GR4 Detachment following the handover from 31 Squadron to 12 (Bomber) Squadron earlier in the day.

Flight Lieutenant Mark Taylor, a Tornado GR4 pilot in 12 (Bomber) Squadron, said:

Prince Andrew was very interested in the capabilities of the aircraft, the roles of the crew and how the use of our intelligence assets is aiding operations on the ground.

The Duke of York, speaking on Sunday to the British Forces Broadcasting Service in Kandahar, of which he is patron, said:

It’s absolutely vital that members of the Royal Family should come and visit troops on the front line. We try and come out once or twice a year to make sure the connection is there and maintained.

The thing that has been driven home to me today is that the Afghan Army and Police, having been presented with the fact that they are in charge, have risen to the challenge.

The training that we have delivered to them over the last 2 or 3 years has stood them in good stead and they are really well prepared for taking this on, and an enduring operation for Afghanistan.