Warrenton ‘chap’ visits Prince Harry
Prince Harry seemed 'very casual' to Andrew Carter, right, and his father Eric Carter, middle.
Upon introduction to Andrew Carter, you might be surprised to learn that he has lived in the U.S. for about half his life. Yet even though his British accent stands out among the Warrenton crowd, he and his wife Mary have become beloved members of the community.
Recently, Andrew traveled back to the UK to accompany his 94 year-old father, Eric, to a meeting with His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. Eric was being celebrated for his service in World War II, and Prince Harry was invited to fly a restored WWII Spitfire.
"[My father] flew in Russia and Burma as well as defending over England in 1940," said Andrew. "He was part of Queen Elizabeth II's honor guard in 1994 during her first state visit of an English monarch to Russia since the Russian revolution."
He received the Arctic Star last year at 10 Downing Street where British Prime Minister David Cameron awarded him a medal for his part in a special operation.
Upon arrival to the hangar last month, Andrew and his father met with four other veteran pilots and Prince Harry.
"[Prince Harry] came across as a very genuine, down-to-earth chap, very casual," said Andrew. "He was intensely interested in them and their stories. Spent about two hours with us just chatting and getting to know them."
Prince Harry intended to take a Spitfire out for a spin, but due to poor weather conditions, had to reschedule the flight.
Andrew said that Prince Harry asked, "Mainly technical questions about the Spitfire and what it was like to fly it in combat. He is coming back to fly the restored one when the weather is better so I think he was genuinely trying to pick up some tips."
Andrew said his father, who is the last survivor of his squadron, is publishing a book this April called "Force Benedict" which details his most memorable mission. The book describes his being part of a secret mission to save Stalin following Hitler’s invasion of Russia in 1941.
"When Hitler invaded Russia in 1941 it was such a sudden attack that most of the Russian air force was destroyed on the ground," Andrew said.
The only ice-free port available to the allies to resupply Russia was Murmansk in the north of Russia inside the Arctic circle. Although Churchill detested communism and had no love for Stalin, Andrew said,
Churchill realized that if Russia fell to the Germans then the full force of the German war machine would be turned against the only other hold-out -- Great Britain.
"Without supplies it was estimated that Russia would fall within six weeks and so Churchill rushed a fighter wing of two Squadrons to defend the port," Andrew said.
It was the very first Arctic Convoy of many subsequent British and American supply convoys to Russia during the war, he said. Even though the German lines were in Finland only 60 miles away the port was successfully defended and the Nazis were held at bay, Andrew said.
"Stalin later awarded the city of Murmansk the prestigious Order of Lenin for being the only part of Russia that was not invaded by the Germans," Andrew said.
"Operation Benedict", as the expedition was called, was considered a suicide mission and no provision was made to bring the pilots back home, although most of them made it back one way or another, Andrew said. Eric finally made it back to England on a Royal Navy battleship.
"After serving in the Arctic, Eric was then deployed to tropical Burma for the remainder of the war -- no doubt to thaw out!" Andrew said.
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