Prince Philip: Former royal pilot recalls 'marvellous' experience

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image copyrightTim Williams
image captionGeoffrey Williams worked as the Duke of Edinburgh's private pilot from 1973 to 1995

One of the Duke of Edinburgh's private pilots has said the experience was like being put "through a university course".

Geoffrey Williams from Mawnan Smith, Cornwall, worked as a pilot for Prince Philip from 1973 to 1995.

"He taught me a lot about life," said Mr Williams.

He flew the duke on many trips, including one to open the Royal Opera House in Sydney, Australia, though the job had not been a career ambition.

"It was privilege to do it and it was a joy to work for his Royal Highness", he said.

"Right from the beginning he had the ability to put somebody completely at ease."

image copyrightTim Williams
image captionMr Williams said the duke "taught me a lot about life"

Mr Williams "didn't know there was such a job" when he joined the RAF in 1959, but was selected to interview and was chosen because he "fitted in with the requirements".

The 82-year-old said that in his first year he built up "a trust" and despite pilots in the role usually changing every three years, he and the duke decided to continue his position.

"I'd never been to university, and I felt that as the time went on I felt that he was putting me through a university course," he continued.

image copyrightTim Williams
image captionGeoffrey Williams joined the RAF in 1959 and did not know the royal pilot job existed

"The very first time I flew with him I couldn't believe that I was there sitting next to somebody who was so important."

Mr Williams remembered the duke asking whether he should be doing something "because I was just gazing at him and I was thinking he's got very big fingers and various things like that".

He said: "That was enough to get me going and I didn't make the same mistake again."

image copyrightTim Williams
image captionThe duke "took a great interest in flying", said Mr Williams

Mr Williams said that ahead of the duke's tours, he would travel to Buckingham Palace to meet with his staff and discuss plans.

While there, he used to collect the duke for flying training and "he always took a great interest".

When he retired Mr Williams said he was invited to Buckingham Palace to "say goodbye" and had a chat with the duke lasting an hour and a half.

"I came away feeling exceedingly chuffed, but I was quite sad to say goodbye to him," he added.

After retiring to Cornwall, Mr Williams said he stayed in touch with Prince Philip, including being invited to his birthday celebrations and exchanging letters.

"I was quite devastated when I got the news (of the duke's death)," said Mr Williams.

"He'd always been there and I thought he always would."

The funeral of Prince Philip, who died on 9 April, aged 99, is due to be held on Saturday.

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