Duke and Duchess of Cambridge honour Irish Guards

The BBC's Helena Lee described the presentation of medals by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

The Duke of Cambridge has spoken of his "pride and humility" as he presented Afghanistan medals to the Irish Guards in Windsor.

He said he was "proud to be your colonel" and "humbled" by the thought of the soldiers' sacrifices.

Prince William attended the ceremony with the Duchess of Cambridge.

This is the first time the couple have visited the regiment since Prince William became Colonel of the Irish Guards earlier this year.

'Conflicting memories'

The duke is also presenting the families of three fallen servicemen with the Elizabeth Cross.

The prince said: "I am humbled by the thought of the sacrifices that you and your families have made and the losses that you have suffered - all in the service of our country.

At the scene

For the young couple there were a lot of firsts at today's ceremony.

It was the first time Prince William had visited the regiment since becoming its colonel, the first time Catherine had handed out medals to army personnel and, as a royal couple, the first time they'd visited an army unit together.

When it came to the ceremony, they took their time. Catherine, who wore a double-breasted navy coat, matching hat and a golden Irish shamrock on her lapel, spoke to the soldiers individually before handing them their medals.

She appeared relaxed and animated and made them laugh. Prince William chose a knee-length frock coat for the occasion.

He spoke to the soldiers of his pride and humility. It was clear to see how proud he was to have his wife sharing a role so close to his heart.

"Along with thousands of others back home, I followed your tour in Afghanistan with a mounting sense of awe.

"I can only imagine what the campaign medals you receive today must mean to you. Over the years and decades ahead when you look at this medal, I'm sure it will bring back so many conflicting memories.

"Sadness for those who did not return, and thoughts of their families who received their Elizabeth Crosses today.

"Respect for the sacrifices of our wounded whom we are all so pleased to see here on parade, gratitude to your families for supporting you through the impossible pressures that service life sometimes imposes.

"And pride at being part of a battalion that rose to the challenge of operations in such a magnificent way."

The 1st Battalion Irish Guards returned to the UK in April following a six-month tour in Afghanistan where one of their roles was mentoring the Afghan National Army.

A royal aide said the duchess was pleased to be performing the role for a regiment "so close to her husband's heart".

About 400 Irish Guards received medals during the ceremony, with the duke and duchess taking time to speak to each one.

Before the medal parade, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge held private meetings with families of those who served in Afghanistan.

Six Irish Guards also took part in ceremonial duties at the royal wedding shortly after returning from Afghanistan.

Wedding outfit

A statue to commemorate the regiment was unveiled on Friday, part of a two-day Armed Forces Day programme which has seen events held across the UK.

In Edinburgh, a parade of 2,500 military personnel, veterans and cadets is taking place along the Royal Mile.

The celebrations are being attended by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, as well as Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond.

Meanwhile in Manchester, the work of servicemen and women is being celebrated at an event with live music from the Royal Artillery Band and taster sessions with Civilian Military Fitness.

And in Liverpool, a service is taking place in the city's Anglican Cathedral ahead of a parade led by the band of the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment.

Prince William is the Irish Guards' first royal colonel and wore the regiment's uniform on his wedding day.

The guards were formed in 1900 in recognition of the actions of Irish regiments in the Boer War. The unit is heavily involved in ceremonial duties, but it has also been actively involved in the fighting in Afghanistan.

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