Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Royal visit: Fans of all ages get snap happy with rock-star royalty

Duke of Cambridge attend a wreath laying and public walk in Seymour Square, Blenheim . Photo / APN
Duke of Cambridge attend a wreath laying and public walk in Seymour Square, Blenheim . Photo / APN

William and Catherine were greeted as rock-star royalty in Marlborough yesterday - filmmaker Sir Peter Jackson even bringing out his smartphone to capture the occasion.

The flying Prince was in his element as film director Sir Peter gave him a personal guided tour of his incredible old warplane collection during a visit to the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre.

Sir Peter Jackson cheekily snaps Catherine viewing his aviation collection.

A 26ft-long grey World War I relic, a Caproni CA 22, greeted the royal pair for the start of the tour.

"Oh wow, look at this!" a genuinely impressed Prince William exclaimed.

"This is awesome. How old is this?"

"1913," Sir Peter replied.

They met a World War II Spitfire pilot and took in the remarkable life-like exhibition of the infamous Red Baron's last flight.

The director was spotted taking photos on his iPhone of the Duchess.

South Island couple Robyn and Bill Reid escorted the future King and his wife into the cockpit of their restored Avro Anson Mark 1.

"Prince William was sitting in the pilot's seat and Kate was sitting behind him, next to Bill," said Mrs Reid.

"He was asking all about the controls and things and said he would have quite liked to have gone for a fly but unfortunately there wasn't enough time."

Mrs Reid said the royal couple were fascinated by the plane - the only functioning aircraft of its type left in the world.

"He's a pilot so he was really interested ... it was great because we are really proud of it and have spent a lot of time restoring it, so to show it off to them was great."

Earlier, dozens of people had assembled for a wreath laying ceremony at the Marlborough War Memorial in Seymour Square, Blenheim, before the sun had risen.


By 11am thousands were gathered in crowds 20-people deep and were seated atop fences and shoulders to get a good view. Some even climbed trees for optimal positioning.

Flower beds had been removed to make way for standing room in anticipation of such a turnout and surrounding businesses and properties had been decorated with Union Jack flags.

Some royal commentators remarked it was the biggest turnout for a royal visit by a provincial centre since Charles and Diana.

After laying wreaths and paying respects to the fallen of The Great War, William and Kate met with old soldiers and heard their stories.

William, with war medals displayed on the left lapel of his navy suit jacket, went right. Kate, wearing a blue Alexander McQueen coat cinched at the waist with pleats at the back, headed left to engage with those behind the safety barriers.

Joe Loe, who served in the Royal New Zealand Air Force during WWII, spoke to Prince William about getting back into the cockpit.

"He said he was very much looking forward to it. Meeting royalty is one of the excitements in life and as I've got older I appreciate the fact that it is great to see the young future royalty recognising things today."

Northern Ireland expat Sandra Morrit was shocked when Prince William stopped to chat with her for a few minutes.

"He asked me how long I have been here and I said 40 years."

To which he replied: "Stay here, it's much better."

Meeting Catherine made yesterday's five-hour wait from 6.30am all worth it for 11-year-old Ayla Simpson.

"My friend gave her one of those elastic things you put around your wristband ... and she liked it and she said it's going to be the biggest fashion for the year. She was really nice, she looked beautiful."

If you're out spotting the royals, we want your snaps. Share them with us, including details of where you took the photo, here.

- NZ Herald

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