John Stillwell/AFP/Getty
Simon Perry
January 14, 2016 08:50 AM

Piloting an air ambulance helicopter is hungry work, so when Prince William touched down near a school during a mission, he joined the students for lunch in their cafeteria Wednesday.

The unlikely guest was on a break following a mission for the East Anglian Air Ambulance when he landed on a playing field at the school.

Invited in for something to eat, he lined up with the students and sat down for a meal of roast chicken, cauliflower cheese and vegetables.

The John Henry Newman School in Stevenage, about 30 miles north of London, is a frequent landing point for the East Anglian Air Ambulance, where William has worked since March.

William, 33, had been transporting medics from the nearby Lister Hospital.

Prince William (second from left)
Courtesy of The John Henry Newman Catholic School

Head teacher Clive Mathew tells PEOPLE that the air ambulance lands on the field every two or three weeks to pick up doctors or transport patients. The school usually offers them refreshments, and this time it was lunch.

One of the crew members said, “Yes, we will have lunch if that’s okay,” Mathews shares. “And then Prince William jumped out as well. It was very exciting.”

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“We brought him into the school and he lined up with the pupils and he got himself some lunch and sat down,” Mathew continues. “He was working and the pupils were very respectful and some came and sat in the spaces available and chatted to him.

“He asked them about their Christmas holidays and how their studies were going – general small talk.”

News of the prince’s presence in the school cafeteria quickly made the rounds.

“It was surreal. As the rumor went around the school, people didn’t quite believe it, and then when they were sitting in the dining hall and there he was – it was fantastic. They were very excited. The children who spoke to him will remember it for the rest of their lives,” Mathew adds.

And they won’t be the only ones. “The children are very proud that the prince has had lunch in the same dining room and eaten the same food,” Mathew says. “And for Stuart Copeland – our chef – as a prince has eaten his food and said it was very nice!”

The school paid for the meal – around $4 – and William ate it all up, Mathew reports.

“He was a really nice and it was lovely to have had that opportunity to meet him and host him,” he says.

William joined the air ambulance after serving more than three years as a pilot with the RAF Search and Rescue Force in Wales. After a period of training, he started flying missions in July.

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