THE DUKE of Edinburgh showed he has lost none of his wit despite concerns about his health as he joked with homeless veterans including one from South Yorkshire.
Philip, who celebrates his 95th birthday next week, looked relaxed and in good spirits as he toured New Belvedere House, flagship hostel of the Veterans Aid organisation, in the east end of London.
When he walked into the building’s common room where veterans were playing on a snooker table, rumoured to have once been owned by former Beatle Ringo Starr, he quipped “when are they going to throw you out?” to one and got the reply “as soon as possible”.
He also met former Army Air Corps veteran Nathan Rooke, originally from Sheffield, who once performed guard duty at Buckingham Palace and other royal residences before he became homeless.
The official visit in Lime House was the Duke’s first engagement involving the public since he followed medical advice and cancelled an appearance at First World War commemorations on Orkney marking the Battle of Jutland.
Mr Rooke, 25, described the moment he walked into the charity’s head office in central London and broke down because he was not used to the kindness shown to him.
At one point during his military career he was guarding members of the Royal Family while on duty at Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace and Windsor Castle.
The former Air Trooper with 4 Regiment, Army Air Corps, was an aviation communication specialist but was discharged from the forces after almost four years’ service following a bout of depression which came after some family members died.
He said his life “spiralled” downwards and he eventually found himself homeless but he was put in touch with Veterans Aid by another charity.
Mr Rooke, originally from Sheffield, met the Duke in his rectory flat and chatted to him about his life.
Talking about the moment he first met staff from Veterans Aid, he said: “When I first turned up they took all my bags and told me to go downstairs and grab something to eat. I sat down there, got a meal, couldn’t eat all of it because I wasn’t used to eating full meals.
“But I burst into tears and said I wasn’t used to somebody helping me.”
He had been homeless for six months before he found shelter at the charity’s hostel last summer. He is now an apprentice sound engineer working with top-selling artists, but has been sworn to secrecy about who records at the London studio where he works.
He said: “From here things have gone from strength to strength. I chose a course I wanted to do - sound engineering - from there I got an apprenticeship and am working with a few A-list celebrities on a regular basis.”