Harry jokes with former Sandhurst instructor in Invictus Games surprise call
The Duke of Sussex speaks to Team UK at their final training camp (Theo Cohen/Help for Heroes/PA)
PA Media - Theo Cohen/Help for Heroes

The Duke of Sussex has joked with one of his instructors from Sandhurst, telling her that she used to shout at him “so much”.

Harry surprised Invictus Games Team UK competitors with a video call as members gathered for a final training camp before the event takes place in the Netherlands later this month.

The duke founded the games to aid the rehabilitation of injured or sick military personnel and veterans from across the globe, by giving them the challenge of competing in sporting events similar to the Paralympics.

After being delayed by the pandemic, the next staging of the international competition will take place in The Hague from April 16 to 22.

The room erupted in laughter when Harry commented on the fact the competitors had had two years to prepare for the games and that therefore fitness should not be an issue.

“You realise that no-one, not just you guys, no-one’s got any excuses for not being fit now,” he joked.

Harry also enquired about former royal army physical training corps instructor Vic Wales, who was one of the instructing staff while he was a cadet at Sandhurst.

The Duke of SussexThe Duke of Sussex founded the games to aid the rehabilitation of injured or sick military personnel and veterans from across the globe (Theo Cohen/Help for Heroes/PA)PA Media - Theo Cohen/Help for Heroes

“Is my PTI from Sandhurst in here somewhere?” Harry asked, before spotting her and exclaiming: “There she is.”

He said: “I can’t believe after, how many years, 15 years, our paths are about to cross again.

“You used to shout at me so much.”

Harry appeared to be told that he needed it, as he then said: “I needed it. Yeah, cool. That’s also fair enough.”

Ms Wales, 44, from Newcastle, is taking part in five events – rowing, cycling, archery, powerlifting and athletics.

Team UKTeam UK at their final training camp (Theo Cohen/Help for Heroes/PA)PA Media - Theo Cohen/Help for Heroes

She broke her back in a training accident 11 years ago and was medically discharged.

Giving a team talk to the competitors, Harry said: “For a lot of you, you’ve already, as far as I’m concerned, you’ve already won gold by just getting to this point.

“The fact that you are sitting there now wearing that strip and you are able to wear the Union Jack on your arm again, that means so much to every single one of you.”

Team UK captain Rachel Williamson, a 33-year-old RAF veteran from Rutland, Leicestershire, told Harry on the call, which took place on Saturday: “It’s been a very long journey to get here, but what an amazing team to do it with.

“We’ve came through ups and downs with the pandemic, and I know as soon as we all get there it will be just amazing to just look back at the team and see how far we’ve actually came. It will be really special.”

Team UK former Army Sergeant Vic WalesHarry enquired about former royal army physical training corps instructor Vic Wales (Theo Cohen/Help for Heroes/PA)PA Media - Theo Cohen/Help for Heroes

Afterwards, she said: “The call was such a surprise but it was amazing to see Prince Harry again.

“I absolutely loved it, it was like speaking to another member of the Invictus family.

“He just says the right stuff. The main thing he said was ‘yes you lost your uniform but now you get to wear this brand new uniform again’ and that hits all of us so deep.

“We know that he understands where we’re coming from and where we’ve been.”

Former RAF corporal Kelly Leonard, Team UK vice-captain, 44, from near Shrewsbury, Shropshire, said after the call: “I was nearly in tears when he gave us a team talk. It was really rousing.

Team UK captain Rachel Williamson, centre, with vice-captains Kelly Leonard, left, and Corporal David MorrisTeam UK captain Rachel Williamson, centre, with vice-captains Kelly Leonard, left, and Corporal David Morris (Theo Cohen/Help for Heroes/PA)PA Media - Theo Cohen/Help for Heroes

“The message was about what Invictus is about, that resilience and that journey. It was really wonderful to see him.”

Charity Help For Heroes is responsible for the selection, training and welfare of UK competitors.

Last weekend, Team UK’s friends and family cheered them on from the sidelines at the training camp, supported by the Royal British Legion.

Team UK will compete in nine sports: athletics, archery, wheelchair basketball, cycling, powerlifting, indoor rowing, wheelchair rugby, swimming and sitting volleyball.

Harry played an instrumental role in bringing the games to the UK in 2014, when 300 competitors from 13 countries took part in the inaugural competition in London.

A trip to the Warrior Games in Colorado a year earlier had been the inspiration, as Harry saw firsthand how sport helped inspire recovery and support rehabilitation of wounded troops.

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