A Queensland woman who lost her husband to the conflict in Afghanistan says her time with the Duchess of Cambridge was bitter sweet.
War widow Nicole Pearce says her meeting with the Duchess of Cambridge was a surreal and privileged experience, but she desperately wishes it could have been under different circumstances.
It’s been almost seven years since a roadside bomb claimed the life of her husband, Trooper David Pearce, just two weeks into a tour of Afghanistan.
Her daughters Stephanie and Hanna lost their father. She lost the man she loved, and, for too many years, any sense of a normal life.
Nothing can bring her 41-year-old husband back but the widow was touched by the duchess’s heartfelt concern for her family.
Kate and Prince William spoke with four families who lost loved ones in Afghanistan and Iraq during their tour of Queensland’s Amberley RAAF base on Saturday.
“She asked how long David had been in the military for and how long he’d been overseas when he was killed,” Mrs Pearce told the Nine Network.
“She was sincerely quite sad for us to think David was only over there for two weeks when he was killed. She seemed very, very genuine and she was very sweet.”
It was a bitter sweet occasion for the family.
“I’d rather have Dave here. The reason we’re here is because he’s not,” Mrs Pearce said.
“But I think he would be really proud, really honoured to think we had an opportunity like this.”
The royal couple also spoke with the grieving families of Lance Corporal Stjepan “Rick” Milosevic – one of three Australians killed by a rogue Afghan soldier in 2012, Private Matthew Lambert, who also died in Afghanistan, and Flight Lt Paul Pardoel who died in Iraq.
Earlier the couple had bowed their heads after planting a tree at Amberley’s memorial garden, in honour of the service and sacrifice of Royal Australian Air Force personnel.
But they also made time for some lighter moments on the fourth day of their Australian tour.
There was some banter over just who would sit in the hot seat of a F/A-18F Super Hornet stationed at the base. Kate won, with former RAF helicopter pilot William banished to the back seat of the fighter jet.
The couple also chatted easily with dignitaries including Premier Campbell Newman and Governor Penelope Wensley, and air force families.
Kate’s elegant white dress, with its blue poppy motif, was an understated but unmistakable nod to the flower that is a symbol of remembrance for the military community.
Within minutes of her appearance in Brisbane, the dress, by UK fashion house L.K. Bennett, was out of stock, and websites were crashing under the weight of traffic.
Kate accepted gifts of flowers for herself and presents for baby Prince George from several small children, including a boomerang and some pyjamas.
The young prince will have to wait to receive his gifts as he remained in Sydney for the day.
A small crowd of service families waited hours in the hot sun for a glimpse of the royal couple as they left the base for Brisbane.
“It was wonderful, well worth the wait” said Donna Caesar after Kate accepted a bouquet of roses from her excited 12-year-old daughter Amelia.
“She was lovely and very pretty,” the youngster said.