PRINCE Harry said hello to some old acquaintances during a visit to Henley on Monday.
He visited the River and Rowing Museum to present medals to 10 current and former servicemen who rowed across the Atlantic for military charities.
The visit was arranged by Row2Recovery, the Henley charity which supports military para- rowing and organised the 3,000-mile races in 2011 and 2013.
Click here to view our picture gallery of the Princes’ visit.
Harry, who was dressed in a navy blue suit, white shirt and red tie with a rabbit pattern, spent time talking to the men.
He seemed especially happy to meet Ed Janvrin, Alex Mackenzie, Carl Anstey, Cpl Neil Heritage, Will Dixon and Cpl Rory Mackenzie, the crew that spent 51 days rowing from the Canary Islands to Barbados between December 2011 and January 2012.
Four of the crew were severely injured during service. Mr Anstey was hit by the blast from a rocket-propelled grenade which shattered his femur while serving with the First Battalion, The Rifles; Mr Heritage had both legs amputated from the knee after a suicide bomb attack in Iraq in 2004 while serving with the Royal Signals bomb disposal team; Will Dixon’s left leg was amputated after being injured in Afghanistan when he served as platoon commander with the Third Battalion, The Rifles; and Rory Mackenzie lost his right leg following a roadside bomb blast in Iraq.
The 29-year-old prince, who served with the Army Air Corps in Afghanistan, followed the crew’s progress during the race and surprised them with a phone call by satellite to give them a morale boost.
Mr Janvrin said: “He has known about us for a while and we were talking about the whole set-up for Row2Recovery and that first row. It’s great to have his support.
“Harry gets on really well with military people because of his background. He is completely relaxed and puts everyone at ease.”
The crew raised nearly £1 million for three military charities — the SSAFA National Armed Forces Charity, ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and Help for Heroes.
After their chat, the prince presented the men with their medals, which featured a blue ribbon and the inscription “beyond injury, achieving the extraordinary”.
Mr Janvrin, 34, who served with the Gurkhas for eight years and co-founded Row2Recovery with Alex Mackenzie, said: “It’s amazing that Prince Harry has managed to find time for us.”
Mr Mackenzie, 35, who served in the Parachute Regiment for six years, said: “This is quite surreal. When we started the charity we never planned for this so it’s quite rewarding. This isn’t just about wounded guys in a boat. It’s for the people on day one of rehab, who are questioning the rest of their lives, to be able to see what is possible.”
Rory Mackenzie, 32, said: “Harry is exceptionally supportive and it’s so nice that we have a member of the royal family awarding us medals. There was a lot of banter between him and all the guys because we finished in 51 days in 2011 and the other guys finished in 49.”
Harry also met the 2013 crew: Cpl Cayle Royce, who had both legs amputated after stepping on an explosive device in Afghanistan in May 2012 while serving as a sharpshooter with the Brigade Reconaissance Force; Capt Mark Jenkins, who served with the Royal Army Medical Corps as a physiotherapy officer; Cpl Scott Blaney, who had an above-the-knee amputation following a bomb explosion in Afghanistan in 2007; and Capt James Kayll, who serves with the Light Dragoons.
Cpl Royce, 28, said he was “comparing notes” with Harry about the prince’s trip to the Antarctic last year when he spent five weeks with a team of servicemen and women who had lost limbs in Afghanistan.
He said: “He was giving us a pat on the back and we were able to say thank you for his support face-to-face. He couldn’t believe that we could have done it in such a small boat. He was shocked at the conditions.”
Harry also met Cpl Royce’s brother Seth and mother Bronwyn.
Mrs Royce said: “It is great to be able to see how far Cayle has come since he was first injured and saying ‘what am I going to do with my life?’ because he was always very adventurous.
“I said ‘doors are going to open that wouldn’t have opened before’ and now it’s great to see him doing this challenge. He just wants to be an inspiration to motivate other injured guys.”
Cpl Blaney, 27, called the row a once-in-a-lifetime experience, adding: “It was fantastic. Every day was an adventure. It was easy at some times but very hard-going at others.”
Earlier, Harry arrived at the museum in Mill Meadows with Sir Keith Mills, deputy chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and chairman of the Invictus Games, which Harry helped to launch at the former Olympic Park in London last week.
The pair were welcomed by Tim Stevenson, Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, Paddy Nicoll, chairman of both the Rowing and River Museum and Row2Recovery, and Nick Booth, chief executive of the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, which created the Endeavour Fund that supported both races.
The prince chatted to visitors before signing the museum’s guestbook and then visited the Rowing Gallery where he was introduced to Row2Recovery trustees and volunteers, including trustee Simon Conway, volunteer finance director Paula Doraisamy and volunteer administrator Cristina Wade.
He also met Mr Nicholl’s wife Annabel, who is a trustee of Row2Recovery and the museum.
She said: “It is great that we have got Prince Harry’s support. It’s really important in giving Row2Recovery the recognition it needs.The programme for disabled servicemen is so important and it’s great that he recognises the work that is being done.”
Row2Recovery was originally planned as a one-off campaign to raise £1 million but since Mr Nicoll took over it has grown into a support network for military para-rowers nationwide with coaches and clubs.
After presenting the medals, Harry joined the crews for a group photograph and spent time looking at the displays in the museum, including a camouflage-patterned Row2Recovery blazer.
He then watched a demonstration of para-rowing given by Cpl Blaney, servicemen Nicholas Heyward and John Le Galloudec, David Wiseman, project manager for the Endeavour Fund, military Paralympian Nick Beighton and Cpl Heritage. Harry met Annamarie Phelps, Neil Chugani and Dame Di Ellis, chairman, chief executive and honorary president of British Rowing respectively, and Celia Hetherington, head of education and training.
Other guests included Louise Kingsley, Olympic pathway manager for the GB Rowing Team, Adam Blaze, Sport England strategic lead for disability and Mo Usaman and Ela LaGalloudec, of Help for Heroes.
Also present were five-times Olympic champion Sir Steve Redgrave, London 2012 gold medallists Heather Stanning, Helen Glover and Alex Gregory and Paralympians Tom Agar, Rachel Morris and Mr Beighton.
Sir Steve praised the Row2Recovery crews, saying: “Training is hard enough when you’re in a boat for between one hour and two hours. To be doing it for 50-odd days or however long it takes to get across is an incredible feat. I’m very proud of my my six medals and five gold ones but I’m nowhere near getting an Atlantic one — and I’m quite pleased about that.”
Capt Stanning said: “I’m massively impressed. I followed their journey across the Atlantic. It’s phenomenal for anyone to row the Atlantic but to do it with a disability is amazing.”
The guests enjoyed a private lunch before Harry spent time looking at the boats on display outside the museum, including the one used by both Row2Recovery crews.
He shook hands with each crew member before leaving the museum with Sir Keith, who said: “Harry was very keen on coming down here. He has been keeping an eye on the Row2Recovery team and is very supportive.”
Mr Stevenson said: “This is Prince Harry’s first official visit since I took over five years ago. It is great to have him here because he represents that generation of the royal family who bring wonderful vigour to their role.”
Mr Nicoll said: “It’s a real privilege having the prince here for Henley, the museum and the charity. He was most interested in how wounded military personnel were interating into the Row2Recovery programme. I’m grateful to everyone involved from the charity, volunteers and trustees. It’s great to have the royal stamp of approval.”