The Duke of Cambridge tried shooting hoops – with a little help from the Prince of Wales – on a rare joint visit to a new military rehabilitation centre.
The moment came during a tour of the state-of-the-art Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre (DMRC), alongside the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge.
Charles, Camilla, William and Kate were shown around the facility on the Nottinghamshire/Leicestershire border by commanding officer Captain Alison Hofman.
Run by the Ministry of Defence, the centre on the Stanford Hall estate, near Loughborough, began admitting patients in October 2018 and provides rehab for serving military personnel who have suffered battlefield, neurological or other injuries and illnesses.
The royal foursome met patients undergoing therapy, visited a prosthetics workshop – where they were gifted a beaten-copper poppy – and stopped at the gym where a game of wheelchair basketball was under way.
William took up an invitation from Major Les Reid, as the 49-year-old “loaned” the Duke his wheelchair to shoot a few hoops himself.
Confidently wheeling up to the mark, William then shot and missed three times, to groans.
His father stepped in to lend a hand, grasping the back of the wheelchair and moving it a few feet closer to the basket – raising laughs from Kate, Camilla and the watching patients.
As William fluffed his fifth shot, Charles placed his hands around his son’s neck and jokingly shook him.
But the duke made it sixth time lucky, to raucous cheers, joking afterwards it had taken “a while” to get his aim in.
Maj Reid, originally from Liverpool, is at the centre for strengthening treatment before an operation on a long-term ankle injury sustained in a climbing accident.
He said the duke was asking patients about their injuries before he “encouraged” William to take a seat in the wheelchair.
“He wanted to try it and see how difficult it was,” Maj Reid said. “Which it is, as you can see – he needed some help from his dad. He got it on the last attempt.”
DMRC Stanford Hall is part of the overall Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre (DNRC) programme which includes a defence element and proposals for an NHS facility on the same site.
William, who was patron of the DNRC appeal, attended the official handover of the newly built defence centre to the nation in June 2018.
Kate and William spoke with patients and staff, including occupational therapist Verity Cannell, who said the couple were interested in the “dual” approach to rehabilitation, through mental well-being and occupational therapy.
She said the facility is “a bespoke centre” where military personnel feel understood, allowing patients to be – as the duke put it – “surrounded by their brothers” in rehabilitation.
William also spoke to Sergeant Angela Stevens, 46, based at RAF Lossiemouth, who was learning metalworking during her rehab, and praised the “individual” approach to healthcare offered by the centre.
“My goal is to return to service,” she added.
Concluding their visit, the royal visitors met other patients and families at a reception, including Lieutenant Colonel Andy Williams, of the RAF Regiment, who is undergoing treatment after a severe head injury sustained in a road accident.
His wife Sharon, from Bath, told Camilla that her husband, who is in a wheelchair, suffered a traumatic brain injury 19 months ago when a cement mixer crushed his vehicle.
The mother-of-four said: “I told her about Andy’s accident and how much of a positive effect this centre has really had. Instead of giving up on him, they try here.
“They’re trying to get him to communicate. He held a pen and drew a picture, which we never thought we would see him do.”
The royals then signed a visitors book before unveiling a plaque commemorating the visit.
Later Charles and Camilla were greeted with a snow flurry when they arrived at a market in Leicester city centre to unveil a plaque commemorating a new market square.
To keep out the bitter temperatures Charles was offered an espresso coffee by Geoff Rossa, owner of Cafe Bocca, which was started by his Italian grandfather Ralph Rossa who began selling ice cream in Leicester in 1896.
Mr Rossa, whose grandson is the fifth generation of the family to work in the business, said: “The prince said it was wonderful coffee and I mentioned I knew how old he was, he was born in November 1948, the same as me, and he made a joke and said ‘terrible isn’t it’.”
The prince and his wife toured the market chatting to stall holders, and in the new square they met local dignitaries by the statue of Alice Hawkins, a local suffragette.
Before unveiling a plaque to mark the naming of Green Dragon Square, Charles said: “It is a really special occasion for us to visit Leicester, and I do hope that this new square will make an enormous difference to all your lives.”