Prince Harry Visits Portsmouth

Prince Harry braved the cold rain on Friday March the 18th to carry out his first medal presentation to Royal Navy counter mine personnel.

In his role as Commodore-In-Chief, Small Ships and Diving, he presented medals to members of the First and Second Mine Countermeasures Squadrons (MCM1 and MCM2) at Portsmouth Naval Base to mark their service in Iraq.

The prince was then given a tour of the minehunter HMS Cattistock and had a chance to meet groups of naval personnel and their families.

Ableseaman Grant Mallion, of HMS Shoreham, from Cambridge, received his medal as he celebrated his 20th birthday today.

He said that the prince talked to him about the Six Nations rugby tournament and England's chance of winning.

He said:

"It was a great honour to receive my medal from Prince Harry.

"It was my first deployment and it was exciting to work in quite different conditions - it was much hotter than here.''

Leading Seaman Sam Dixon, 24, of HMS Grimsby, from Plymouth, Devon, said:

"I was immensely proud to receive a medal from Harry because not everyone gets such an opportunity.

"He asked me if I was a mother figure on board as the senior wren and I said 'Of course'.''

The Telic Operational Medal was presented to the returning ships' companies of HMS Grimsby, HMS Middleton and HMS Shoreham, as well as the deployed Mine Warfare Battle Staff.

The staff and ships of MCM1 and MCM2 can act as part of a deployed operational force, or represent British interests within a NATO force.

Alternatively they could be operating in UK waters ensuring that ordnance remaining from the world wars is safely disposed of.

Prince Harry also toured the Mary Rose Museum at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and took part in a ceremony laying a foundation stone for a new museum to house the Tudor warship and its artefacts.

The ceremony involved a time capsule created by pupils from Haslemere Preparatory School being buried in the floor of the new museum.

Prince Harry added his own personal note to the time capsule before it was buried.

As he tapped the foundation stone into place with a small mallet, Prince Harry joked:

"What if it cracks? I'm literally pretending to do this.''

As he posed for a group photo with some of the site workers on the new museum, there was laughter as it was realised Prince Harry was blocked from view and someone said: "Let the prince through a bit please.''

Built between 1509 and 1511, the Mary Rose was one of the first ships able to fire a broadside and was a firm favourite of King Henry VIII.

The Mary Rose Trust has received a £21 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to complete the #35 million project for the conservation of the hull and to build the permanent museum which is to open next year.

Harry, who shares his real name, Henry, with Henry VIII, is following in the footsteps of his father, who has been closely involved in the Mary Rose project.

Prince Charles dived on the wreck site before the Mary Rose was raised from the Solent, just outside Portsmouth, in 1982.

As he inspected a longbow recovered from the ship, Prince Harry joked: "Don't worry, I won't drop it.''

He said in the foreword to a commemorative programme for today's ceremony:

"I am delighted to be able to mark another milestone today in the extraordinary history of the Mary Rose.

"The foundation stone in Portsmouth's Historic Dockyard moves us a step closer to turning the vision and hard work of so many over the past 30 years - some might say 500 years - into reality.

"This will be a special place of celebration and learning for future generations and one of commemoration for the English sailors and soldiers who lost their lives in the disaster on July 19, 1545.

"I would like to acknowledge the long-standing support for this project of my father, the Prince of Wales.

"I am so pleased to be building - quite literally - on his good work of so many years.

"I wish every success to the volunteers and world-leading experts who are working towards the completion of the new Mary Rose Museum.''

John Lippiett, chief executive of the Mary Rose Trust, presented Harry with a new Mary Rose commemorative #2 coin produced by the Royal Mint.

Mr Lippiett said:

"The Mary Rose Trust is thrilled that Prince Harry laid the foundation stone of our new museum.

"This ceremony marks a very important milestone in the long project to conserve and exhibit this iconic ship and her unique collection of artefacts.

"It is notable that we are doing this on the 500th anniversary of her launch and in a location which is just a few dozen yards from where she was built.''