Sophie ‘could feel the pain every soldier went through’, veteran says

A military veteran said the Duchess of Edinburgh could “feel the pain every soldier went through” when she met injured armed services personnel at a Buckingham Palace garden party.

More than 2,000 beneficiaries of The Not Forgotten Association attended Tuesday’s event, where they had the chance to meet Sophie in one of her first major public engagements since the coronation.

The charity – which provides entertainment, leisure and recreation for serving members and veterans living with disability, injury or illness – supported more than 12,000 individuals last year.

Sophie, dressed in a light blue gown, listened intently as she shook hands and spoke with attendees and charity representatives.

Derek Derenalagi, 46, who nearly died on service with the 2nd Mercian Regiment in Afghanistan in 2007, spoke with the duchess about his mental and physical rehabilitation.

The former soldier underwent a double amputation to both legs after his vehicle was hit by an IED.

Since stepping down from active service, Mr Derenalagi has competed as a para athlete in the London 2012 Paralympics, the European championships and the Invictus Games in discus and shotput.

He told the PA news agency: “To be alive is a wonderful thing. I was almost dead in 2007, so to make it to the Paralympic Games was just a miracle.

“She asked about the injury, but also my rehabilitation, the mental trauma and support I had from military charities.

“I could tell she felt the pain every soldier every veteran went through, mentally as well as physically.”

Mark Ormrod MBE, 38, a former Royal Marines commander who also served in Afghanistan in 2007, underwent a triple amputation after suffering serious injuries during a routine foot patrol aged 24.

Mr Ormrod said: “Events like these are one of the parts of being a veteran that I really enjoy as part of the military family, that you’re not forgotten.

Sophie talks to veteran Robert Piper
Sophie talks to veteran Robert Piper (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

“When you join the military, you swear allegiance to Queen and Country, now King and Country, so to be invited by the royal family to an event is an honour.

“You feel your time, your service, your sacrifice, was not in vain.”

Sophie also met Second World War veteran Robert Piper, 98, a wireless operator with the 15th Scottish Legion at Normandy.

Mr Piper, who also served in the Middle East, said the deaths of his comrades during the war had led him to devote much of his life to charity after retirement, including the Not Forgotten.

He said: “I feel I owe something to the community. I’m still alive and my mates never came back, so I’ve got to give something back.

“I’m hoping to get to 100 so I can get a card off Charles!”

The national anthem was played by a military band as part of a selection of music during the afternoon.

Another event will be staged at Buckingham Palace on May 25 and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh will be the venue for a party on July 4.