The Duchess of Cambridge visited RAF Brize Norton today to express the country’s appreciation for an incredible humanitarian aid operation.

Operation Pitting involved every unit at the base, working alongside the Royal Navy, Army, local authorities and aid organisations in Afghanistan and the UK.

It was the largest humanitarian aid operation for over 70 years, flying over 15,000 people out of Kabul in just two weeks.

Over 850 people arrived at RAF Brize Norton and were provided with food, clothing, children’s toys, and medical support while their details were processed.

Oxford Mail: Duchess of Cambridge at Brize. Picture Steve Parsons/PA

Her Royal Highness, who wore a beige blazer, navy pants and a plain white shirt, beamed as she chatted to both military personnel and civilians who were directly involved in the effort.

They included RAF aircrew and medics who supported evacuees at Kabul airport as well as civilians and volunteers who established a Repatriation Centre at RAF Brize Norton providing key supplies and support on their arrival into the UK.

She arrived at the base by helicopter before being driven to the building where the volunteers and service personnel were gathered.

Oxford Mail:

Providing an impressive backdrop was one of the huge C17 Globemaster transporter planes that helped with the airlift.

The Duchess later had a look inside the fuselage of the plane.

Squadron leader Andrea Dowds, who was seconded from her usual job in admin for Operation Pitting, said it had been quite emotional.

“We didn’t know what to expect. Everyone who arrived was extremely grateful but they were tired. I think as it progressed people were more and more tired.

“Some of them arrived in their Sunday best – all they had was what they were standing up in.

“The children were quite amazing. If you give a child a teddy they might say thanks, but these children were just so excited. I think we might have given them a bag of teddies.”

Oxford Mail:

The full fleet of RAF transport aircraft from Brize Norton flew around the clock to support the evacuation, including a record flight for a C17 Globemaster which took 439 passengers out of Kabul on a single flight.

Cpl Zack Taylor, who was on constant stand-by and sometimes worked from 10pm to 6am, said the children were “tentative at first. Then five minutes later they were running around wanting to explore the place.

Oxford Mail:

He added: “Within my service with the RAF this experience will always stand out.”