Prince William leaves RAF to pursue charity work

The Duke of Cambridge is expected to leave Anglesey after a seven-year military career and return to London

The Duke of Cambridge has left operational duties in the armed forces after completing his tour as an RAF search and rescue helicopter pilot, Kensington Palace has announced.

The duke carried out his last shift on Tuesday and is now working towards expanding his core charitable interests, particularly in the field of conservation of endangered species.

He will continue to carry out royal engagements but is not expected to increase his number of public duties.

Kensington Palace said his decision to make this a "transitional" year while he considers options for public service was taken before his son, George, was born in July.

A further announcement about the shape of his next role will be made within the next 12 months.

The duke was widely expected to leave the military and return to London with his wife and Prince George, rather than opt for another tour of duty with the RAF.

The duke was known as Flight Lieutenant Wales in the air force and was based at RAF Valley on Anglesey. During his three-year tour he took part in 156 search and rescue operations, with 149 people being rescued.

At a country show on Anglesey last month, the duke spoke movingly about his time in Wales, saying: "This island has been our first home together, and it will always be an immensely special place for us both. Catherine and I look forward to returning again and again over the coming years with our family."

Kensington Palace said the new parents were expected to move into their recently refurbished apartments in the palace in the coming weeks.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford said during his tour that the prince had helped saved lives in the most demanding of conditions: "Flight Lieutenant Wales has been an integral part of the Royal Air Force's search and rescue force, as a Sea King pilot on No 22 Squadron … for the past three years.

"Throughout his tour his airmanship, often in the most demanding of conditions, has contributed directly to saving lives in the mountains of north Wales and from the ravages of the Irish Sea. He has earned the respect of all who have worked with him as a highly professional and competent pilot."

The duke began his military career more than seven years ago when he followed his younger brother, Prince Harry, into Sandhurst.

After St Andrews University he began 44 weeks of training at the royal military academy in Camberley, Surrey, where the course is designed to push new recruits to the brink of exhaustion and shape cadets into army officers.

By signing up, the then 23-year-old prince was continuing a historic family tradition of military service and he became the most senior royal in recent memory to attend the college.

In December 2006, he graduated and was commissioned into the British army as an officer. The Queen, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and William's then girlfriend, Kate Middleton, gathered to watch him in the passing-out parade which marked the end of his training.

William went on to join Harry's regiment, the Household Cavalry's Blues and Royals, and was promoted to lieutenant in 2007.

Continuing his career in the forces, he received his RAF wings from his father at RAF Cranwell in April 2008 after completing an intensive 12-week flying course, thus becoming the fourth successive generation of the monarchy to become an RAF pilot.

He faced criticism later that month after he was allowed to practise landing a Chinook helicopter in a field behind the Middleton family home and when he flew himself and his brother by Chinook to a stag do on the Isle of Wight. The Ministry of Defence defended the flights as part of William's training.

Kensington Palace said in a statement: "His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge is to leave operational service in the armed forces.

"He completes his tour with the Royal Air Force search and rescue force at RAF Valley, Anglesey, after more than seven-and-a-half years of full-time military service.

"He will continue to support the work of the Queen and the royal family through a programme of official engagements, both at home and overseas, with the Duchess of Cambridge.

"The duke will work closely over the next 12 months with the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. He will expand his work in the field of conservation, particularly in respect of endangered species.

"The duke will continue to work with his charities on issues relating to children and young people, veterans and serving members of the armed forces.


Shiv Malik and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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