The Duke of Cambridge urged members of a lifeboat crew to speak about their mental health, telling them: "Everyone has a chink in their armour." On a visit to South Wales on Tuesday, he and the Duchess met staff and volunteers at the RNLI’s Mumbles Lifeboat Station and chatted to them about the impact of their vital work to save lives at sea.
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"How often do you talk about mental health?" Prince William asked. "It’s attritional, I think and it can be difficult [to see things] especially with kids. Everyone has a chink in their armour." William raised the issue after they were welcomed to the Lifeboat Station by Lord Lieutenant Byron Lewis, Commander Tim Conway, Operations Manager and Gerry Coad, Chairman of the Mumbles Lifeboat Management Group.
As they stood on board the all-weather Tamar class lifeboat, William was keen to hear about the range of incidents the crew are called out to and whether they had other jobs. "Are you all full-time?" he asked. "It's a great thing to do. It's rewarding, it's challenging, it ticks lots of boxes. Laughing with one of the crew over how it impacts family life, he held an imaginary phone to his ear, pretending to take a call saying, 'I've got to go' I bet your other half isn’t pleased."
William, a former RAF search and Rescue and air ambulance pilot, was keen to hear how the crew works with the coastguard to find people. "It can be a lovely, beautiful day, but in the water it can be very different," he said. "When you are looking for a head above water and the heat goes, you are using your eyes." The Duke then presented a long-service award to crew member James Bolter, who has been a member of the volunteer crew for over 20 years.
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The royal couple on board the lifeboat
After signing the visitors' book, they chatted to supporters of the charity about their fundraising activities. Barbara Richards from the Mumbles Ladies Lifeboat Guild told William: "A lot of people think we are funded by the government.”" "Yes it was the same with the air ambulance as well," he replied, then joked: "Have you thought about doing a parachute jump?" To laughter, he added: "I will sponsor you a lot for that. As a pilot, I find it very hard jumping out of a very good aircraft."
"Barbara and I are going parachuting together!" he told the Duchess
The royal couple also met Paul O’Dwyer who was with his wife Ceri and sons James, nine, and Finley, one, in their boat at nearby Oxwich last July when they had to be rescued due to engine trouble. Spotting his Royal Engineers regimental tie, William joked: "That tie has got to say something. Stick to the land, Paul!" Paul, 41, from Port Talbot, said: "These guys [the RNLI] are super busy. We take it for granted sometimes in this country. There is so much help there at the drop of a hat. It’s amazing."
The couple then watched as the lifeboat was launched on a training exercise before walking back down the windswept pier to meet some of the hundreds of wellwishers who had gathered to see them. Kate made a beeline for 90-year-old Harvey Bentley, from Swansea, who was in a wheelchair pushed by his son-in-law Mike Sutton-Smith. Crouching down to chat to him, she said: "I hope you’re keeping warm enough. You've wrapped up well? It’s that chilly wind. Thank you for coming to say hello to us. Very nice to meet you. I'll get William to come and say hello." True to her word, the Duke then came over for a chat.
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The Duchess met 90-year-old Harvey Bentley
"They are the nicest people you could meet," said Harvey, a retired motor mechanic.
"William told Harvey he didn’t look a day over 60!" said Mike. "This is the most exciting day Harvey has had in many years. We are so impressed with them, they are incredible."
Six classes of children from Oystermouth Primary School had also come to the pier to welcome the royal visitors and were in fine voice. Deputy head Simon Lloyd-Jones said: "It was one of those experiences they are never going to get again. William was asking if there were any other Aston Villa fans. Kate was asking how old they all were and said her daughter would love the daffodil bookmarks the children had made and given her."
Both William and Kate seemed very taken by Darcie Edworthy, three, who was holding her cuddly toy dog Sprinkles. Mum Amy said: "Kate said she liked Sprinkles. They wanted to know what his name was. William said 'your nose is very pink and cold like mine’." Darcie, from Loughor, Swansea, was also with her grandmother Sarah Robinson and great aunt Kathryn Church. Sarah added: "They were beautiful, a beautiful young couple, they were very keen to talk to everyone."
Kate stopped to chat to little ones during the visit
The Duke and Duchess also stopped to coo over eight-month-old Cari Purdie, whose mum Nicola gave William a homemade gift for Louis. "We gave William a knitted hat like Cari’s for Louis," she said. "Her Scottish grandmother knits them from Alpaca wool."
Mumbles RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager Tim Conway said: "It was an absolute privilege to welcome The Duke and Duchess to The Mumbles RNLI Lifeboat Station. We were able to show them the roles of all our volunteers who all make a valuable contribution to saving lives at sea. I’m sure a highlight of the visit for them was seeing our all-weather lifeboat launch down the slipway. It has been a fantastic morning and something which will stay with us all for a very long time." Lifeboat operations in The Mumbles have been managed by the RNLI since 1863 and the service regularly helps the greatest number of people for a single station in Wales.
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