Duchess of Cambridge meets military personnel involved with Kabul evacuation

ITV News Meridian's Mark McQuillan reports from RAF Brize Norton.

The Duchess of Cambridge arrived at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire today, to thank those involved in the evacuation of civilians from Afghanistan.

In her first Royal engagement since the summer, the Duchess met with a number of individuals involved with the evacuation of refugees from Kabul.

The Duchess met with both military and civilian personnel during her visit, who were all involved with Operation Pitting, the largest humanitarian aid operation for over 70 years.

Over 850 people arrived at RAF Brize Norton during the two week operation, which involved every unit based at the site.

Kate could be heard talking to military personnel outside, talking about what they had accomplished during Operation Pitting.

She said: "Well done, I hope you get some time to relax, you should feel really proud of what you achieved."

The Duchess had the opportunity to sit down with those who had been involved with the evacuation operation, where they engaged in conversation about what military officers had seen and the impact this had on them.

The Duchess of Cambridge said: "I was just asking is there a knock on effect for everyone witnessing something? You're busy and you're active going through the time period, but is it the knock on effect afterwards witnessing some really traumatic experiences and hearing some really hard stories as well."

The Duchess met with RAF Aircrew, medics who supported evacuees at Kabul airport, and the civilians who set up a repatriation centre at Brize Norton.

There were several flights to the RAF base during Operation Pitting, as well as other airports including Heathrow.

A flight lands at RAF Brize Norton in the early hours of the morning.

The Duchess asked some personnel about the experience on board an aircraft, after it had taken off from Kabul airport:

"And when you were on the aircraft, did you know what the plan was, because you must have been asked loads of questions, of like what's happening next, and it must have been really hard for you not to answer them."

She was then shown one of the aircraft used in the evacuation of Afghanistan, where she met members of the flight crew.

The Duchess asked them about the flying conditions and whether they had ever experienced the circumstances they were in before:

"And in terms of flying the aircraft like that, in those sorts of conditions, have you been put in positions like that before?"

Flight Lieutenant Andy Bell said he told the Duchess that though there was some challenging flying, in the cockpit it was business as usual.

The hardest moment for him was seeing 200 hundred people in the aircraft, with their lives packed into one suitcase.

Flight Lieutenant Andy Bell.

Those arriving at RAF Brize Norton were given food, clothing, toys, medical support, childcare and sanitary products whilst their details were processed.

The response from locals in Oxfordshire was so great, the County Council said it was inundated with donations and asked people to take them elsewhere.