Christmas will have extra meaning for Prince Williams and Kate this year, and not just because it’s their first Yuletide as a married couple. Shortly after the holidays, as part of his duties as a search-and-rescue pilot for England’s Royal Air Force, William will ship off to the faraway Falkland Islands — without his bride.
London’s Daily Mail newspaper reports that the prince will make the 8,000-mile trek to the Falklands in January for a scheduled six-week deployment, leaving the Duchess of Cambridge back home — family are not allowed to accompany servicemen.
William will report to RAF Mount Pleasant, the base his uncle Prince Andrew founded in 1985 while also serving in the Falklands.
Though the Daily Mail notes the six weeks will be the longest period the newlyweds have ever spent apart from each other, Kate is said to be “very supportive” of William’s decision to serve. The prince has consistently resisted any possibility of avoiding the deployment, which is a typical post for a search-and-rescue pilot.
The RAF’s most famous serviceman heading to the Falklands could escalate friction between England and Argentina; William’s posting coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War between the two countries. In April 1982, Argentina moved military forces into the Falkland Islands, an archipelago in the South Atlantic 290 miles off its coast, to assert a long-standing claim on an area over which the British had exercised control since the early 1800s. Britain beat back Argentine forces in the 10-week war, which claimed 900 soldier lives — 650 Argentine troops and 250 British personnel.
Decades later, tensions over the conflict remain. Speaking two years ago when William’s potential deployment to the Falklands began to make headlines, Argentina’s foreign minister Jorge Taina said: “This only serves to once again highlight Britain’s ongoing military presence in land and sea areas that are part of the Argentine Republic’s national territories.” Britain still maintains about 1,000 troops in the territory, which is home to about 3,000 people.Slideshow: Life of Prince William (on this page)
Still, Prince William is unlikely to see any combat during his deployment. Instead he is expected to co-pilot one of the two Sea King helicopters at his base, flying on civilian rescue missions or natural disasters in the area, the Daily Mail reported.
Britain's Defense Ministry said that the prince will not perform any ceremonial royal duties during his deployment. And to be sure, he won’t have royal treatment. His spartan accommodations will consist of a single room containing a bed, closet, desk, sink and mirror.
But there should be room for a picture of his bride — William is expected to return to Kate just a month before the couple’s first wedding anniversary.
The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.
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