PRINCE Charles heard tales of heroism and survival during a visit to Scotland’s only residential recovery centre for serving soldiers.
The Duke of Rothesay, as he is known in Scotland, met recovering servicemen and women when he toured the Edinburgh House Personnel Recovery Centre in the south of the capital yesterday on his final day of engagements north of the Border.
The Duke was greeted by veterans of Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan, among other operations, including those who are recovering from severe physical injuries. It also treats those with post-traumatic stress disorder.
He also visited The Erskine Edinburgh Home, which cares for hundreds of veterans from all three armed forces and is funded by donations.
Among the soldiers he met at the recovery centre was Private Paul Lambert from The Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland.
The 32-year-old, from Musselburgh, East Lothian, lost both legs and suffered severe internal injuries after stepping on an improvised explosive while on patrol in Sangin Province, Afghanistan in 2009.
Pte Lambert first met the Duke when he was in intensive care at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham and at the start of a long recovery process and said it was an honour to receive him at Edinburgh House.
“I actually met Prince Charles when I was in intensive care, he came to see me”, he told The Scotsman during the royal visit on Thursday.
“I remember bits, he asked me how I was getting on and I told him about how I met my girlfriend and everything. He was a really nice guy.
“Today he was asking about how I was getting on now, how my prosthetic legs are coming on.”
Pte Lambert was on patrol with his unit when he stepped on an IED with his left foot.
“I took the full force of the blast so my leg left is gone and my right leg is high above the knee. I had shrapnel wounds and actually had a bone come up through and took out my kidney and my liver, half my lung as well. Quite severe.
“It’s been stop start and you can go for months and it’s fantastic and then I have to go for operations and I can get quite bad infections.
“What the Taleban do is put poop on the top of IEDs, old school, and so in addition to the bomb blast the infection might kill [soldiers] as well.”
He said he spent two weeks in intensive care, during which he met Princes Charles, and another two and a half months recovering in hospital.
Pte Lambert, who also served in Iraq in 2007-2008, returned to Edinburgh in May 2010 and bought a house with his fiancé in Musselburgh.
He added: “When I get out of the Army I want to work with the Prince’s Trust. I want to work with kids who have been either injured, have had cancer or meningitis, and who have lost limbs. When I told him [Charles] he said ‘very good’. It’s good for the centre to have him here.”
The centre helps those who are wounded in operations abroad but also looks after sick and injured personnel.
The Duke also spoke with Lance Corporal John Vuatalevu, 35, who shattered his knee and shin after dismounting a tank during service in Canada.
L CPL Vuatalevu, who is originally from Fiji and has served for 11 years in the Army, said he was proud to have met the Duke.
He added: “It was really a special day for me. To meet him in my room was really exciting for me. He walked in and said, ‘Finally you guys find a Fijian’. We started talking and he said he was really proud that I am serving.
“He said, ‘Thank you very much serving in our Army’. He said, ‘You gave us 11 years, that is a lot of years’. It was really nice.”
Earlier, the Duke met veterans, staff and volunteers at the Erskine Home. He toured the building and spoke with residents, many of whom were in full military uniform for the visit.
Steve Conway, chief executive, told The Scotsman during the visit: “Prince Charles has been our patron since 1986 and this was his first opportunity to see the facility here.
“Our residents have all served their Queen and country, sometimes in conflict, so they are very patriotic and really excited about seeing His Royal Highness today.
“They were all up very early this morning getting ready and getting their medals out. It means so much to all of us that he’s here today.”
Charles wore a light grey suit for the visit, with a Royal Naval tie and lapel pins for the Black Watch and the Highlanders.
He had arrived yesterday morning flanked by police and royal protection officers from The Palace of Holyroodhouse, where he stayed during this week’s engagements.