New royal baby to shake up House of Windsor pecking order

Though Major-General Sir Sebastian Roberts, General Officer commanding the Household Division, had said William’s deployment was possible, the Prince’s position as second in line to the throne, and the convention of ministers advising against the person in that position being put into dangerous situations, cast doubts on William’s chances of seeing combat. These doubts increased after Prince Harry’s deployment was cancelled in 2007, due to “specific threats”. William, instead, went on to training in the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, obtaining his commission as a sub-lieutenant in the former and flying officer in the latter (both broadly equivalent to the rank of lieutenant in the army). With this complete, William undertook an attachment with the Royal Air Force, undergoing an intensive four-month training course at RAF Cranwell. Upon completing the course on 11 April 2008, he was presented with his RAF wings by his father, who had himself received his wings after training at the same college.  During this secondment Prince William flew to Afghanistan in a C-17 Globemaster, which repatriated the body of Trooper Robert Pearson. William had been affectionately known by his fellow airmen as “Billy the Fish”, a pun on the name “William Wales”.

William was then seconded to train with the Royal Navy for two months, from June to August 2008, during which he spent three weeks at the Britannia Royal Naval College, training on units of the surface fleet and submarines, as well as with the Fleet Air Arm and the Royal Marines. He spent a day on submarine HMS Talent. During a five-week deployment on HMS Iron Duke in the Caribbean, he took part in a joint operation with the United States Coast Guard that identified and captured a speedboat carrying 900 kg of cocaine worth about £40 million. The ship also took part in other raids.

Owing to William’s future role, a long-term career in the military was considered out of the question; due to his position his desire to see active service was always unlikely to be fulfilled. William originally joined the military on a short-service commission lasting three years. However, it was announced in September 2008 that he would be extending his time in the forces, first by taking on another secondment in 2008, including working at the MOD and non-operational flying with the Army Air Corps. Then it was announced that he would transfer from the Army to the RAF in order to train as a full-time search and rescue helicopter pilot, a role that would enable him to take an active role in the armed forces without being deployed on combat operations.

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