Peter Byrne/WPA Rota
February 18, 2016 07:45 AM

Prince William and Princesss Kate made an emotional trip back to where they spent the first years of their married life on Thursday.

The couple visited William’s former airbase in North Wales to say a poignant farewell to the helicopter search-and-rescue service that is coming to an end after more than 75 years of search-and-rescue operations at Royal Air Force Valley.

William, 33, and Kate, 34, who stunned in a deep red coat from one of her go-to designers, LK Bennett (a royal rewear!) and a chic dark brown hat by Lock & Co, arrived on the base by helicopter.

The event commemorated the force’s service and provided a chance for families to pay tribute to their achievements. At a reception in the officers’ mess, the royals also met current and former personnel – some of whom served alongside the prince during his time as a helicopter pilot there.

While stationed in RAF Valley on Anglesey, an island off the northwest coast of Wales, Flight Lieutenant William Wales – as he was known – flew 56 search-and-rescue operations, helping save 149 stricken people – while his new bride Kate set up their first married home together.

During the reception, Kate said the couple had loved their time in Anglesey. “It was such a special time for us,” she shared. “It was the start of our life together, really.”

Prince William and Kate Middleton visit Trearddur Bay in Anglesey in 2011.
Samir Hussein/WireImage

William’s former Squadron Commander, Wing Commander Sparky Dunlop, praised the royal as a “very good pilot,” telling reporters, “He was not only up to doing it, but he did more than that. He would live and work with his crew, go on rescues with his crew, eat with his crew. He was just another one of the guys.”

Dunlop added, “He is one of the family and we wanted as many of the family to come back today and say goodbye.”

The couple, now parents to 2-year-old Prince George and 9-month-old Princes Charlotte, loved their three years living on the tiny island, where they often could be seen walking cocker spaniel Lupo on the beaches or on date nights at the local pubs.

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“I know that I speak for Catherine when I say that I have never in my life known somewhere as beautiful and as welcoming as Anglesey,” William said during a homecoming there in 2013.

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