Following a tour of the Island, the Prince and the then Duchess of Cornwall, who was celebrating her 62nd birthday, took on separate engagements, with the Duchess visiting a make-up factory a short distance away.
The royal visit to Ryde Fire Station had been a highly anticipated event according to the then Deputy Chief Fire Officer of the Isle of Wight, Steve Apter:
“I had overseen the project which saw the new community room built at the fire station. We wanted to formerly open the extension and a royal visit was the perfect opportunity.
“We wanted to reward our teams and people who had worked incredibly hard during a busy period, implementing changes to improve the whole organisation.”
With the heir to the throne en route to the fire station, final touches were still being made ahead of his arrival. Steve added:
“We were eagerly waiting for the delivery of a banner to cover the scrap cars out on the drill yard. I remember one of our officers collecting it from the ferry terminal, returning to station around five minutes before the arrival of the Prince!”
His Royal Highness was met by the then Chief Fire Officer of Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service, Paul Street, who introduced Cllr Barry Abraham, Isle of Wight Council cabinet member with responsibility for the fire service.
The Prince of Wales took time to look at the fire engines and read a timeline display of how the fire service has changed over time and explaining its vision for the future.
Damon Corr, was a firefighter at Ryde at the time and he remembered the visit well:
“He shook my hand and asked me three questions, one of which was ‘how long have you been a firefighter?’, I replied ’13 years sir’. Half an hour later we were still stood on parade, and I could see him chatting with my wife, they pointed at me, carried on chatting, and then laughed!”
“Later that day my wife told me that when he’d asked her which firefighter her husband was, she replied, ‘the short one’ and he said to her, ‘oh the chap that’s done 13 years’, which I thought was incredible as he’d asked each of us different questions but somehow remembered my answer.”
“The future King had a clear interest in our work, asking my wife all about my role as an on-call firefighter and how we respond to incidents whenever the alerter goes off, day or night.”
Before the Prince was whisked away, youngsters from the youth engagement scheme known as Local Intervention Fire Education (LIFE), showcased the skills they had developed through the programme.
Steve Apter was awarded the Queen’s Fire Service Medal in June 2021, and he fondly recalls the time Ryde Fire Station rolled out the red carpet for the soon-to-be coronated King Charles III because of his daughter’s involvement:
“It was a real honour to see my youngest daughter present the future King with a bouquet of flowers.
“I remember the day well. He was so nice with us all, taking the time to say hello and mingle for a long time. He showed a real interest in wanting to know what was going on, and the changes that we’d seen across the service.
“It was a wonderful day.”