William still moved by traumatic moment from his air ambulance days

The Duke of Cambridge spent two years working as a helicopter pilot with East Anglian Air Ambulance.

Tony Jones
Sunday 05 December 2021 00:01
The Duke of Cambridge (PA)
The Duke of Cambridge (PA)

The impact of dealing with life and death moments while an air ambulance helicopter pilot has been revealed by the Duke of Cambridge who became emotional when he described meeting a former patient.

William’s voice breaks when he recounts being introduced to the unnamed person who recovered, but not fully, following an incident dealt with by the duke and his former crew from East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA).

Speaking during an audio walking tour recorded for Apple the future king described how he was “taking home people’s trauma, people’s sadness” and it was affecting him by making him sad despite a happy home and work life.

William served for two years as an air ambulance helicopter pilot (Heathcliff O’Malley/The Daily Telegraph)

He has spoken in the past about how working for the EAAA affected his mental health, but the audio recording, made while walking around the Queen’s Sandringham estate in Norfolk reveals how the incidents still live with him.

William, who served for two years as an air ambulance helicopter pilot, said about dealing with traumatic moments with the EAAA: “Talking about those jobs definitely helped, sharing them with the team, and ultimately, in one case, meeting the family and the patient involved who made a recovery, albeit not a full recovery, but made a recovery – that definitely helped.”

With his voice breaking, he adds: “Because – it even makes me quite emotional now – when they come in and say ‘thank you’, and, ‘Here he is. He’s okay.'”

He added: “…it still even affects me now. But I think, as a human being, when you see someone in such dire circumstances, basically at death’s door, you can’t help but not be affected by that.”

In a lighter moment, William tells the story of how he was taken out of his “comfort zone” when, during a 2013 fundraising gala for the homeless charity Centrepoint he “got up like a puppy” after Taylor Swift looked him in the eye and said “Come on, William. Let’s go and sing.”

William singing with Taylor Swift and Jon Bon Jovi at the Centrepoint Gala Dinner at Kensington Palace (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

They joined Jon Bon Jovi on stage and performed his band’s hit Livin’ On A Prayer, and William said about the experience: “Beneath my black tie, there was a lot of sweating going on. I felt like a swan, where I was trying to keep myself composed on the outside, but inside, the little legs are paddling fast.

“Now, a lot of people might think that I’m comfortable on stage. When I do speeches and things like that, I’ve done so many now, they’re not a problem. But I’ve not done singing. At times, when you’re taken out of your comfort zone, you’ve got to roll with it.

“And I think we’ve gotten to the stage in this life where we do micromanage ourselves. We do worry about: how do we look on social media? Who said what about me? What am I wearing? There’s so many pressures, but I think making a fool of yourself is okay.”

William begins his tour close to St Mary Magdalene Church where the monarchy traditionally attend the Christmas Day church service, and he reflected that family memories associated with the day are becoming more important.

He said: “I have strong memories of walking down here, and my grandfather, he used to walk so fast that there’d be huge gaps and spaces between all of us walking down, and there’d be us at the back with little legs trying to keep up.

William and Harry pictured with their father leaving church after the Christmas Day service (John Stillwell/PA)

“You know, I think, over time, you start to feel quite attached to those moments and those memories before.”

He goes on to add family members would sit opposite each other in church and facing his cousins – likely to have been Peter Phillips and Zara Tindall – it was difficult keeping a straight face.

“I have had the giggles many, many times in the service. Luckily, no one’s filming it. So you can get away with it, and on Christmas Day, it’s fun to have a giggle and enjoy yourself,” the duke said.

– Apple will stream three special audio airings of the Time To Walk episode featuring William free of charge on Apple Music 1, the global radio station on Apple Music, on Monday.

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