Prince William has described “Manchester’s strength and togetherness” as “an example to the world” during a surprise visit to the city.
The Duke of Cambridge personally wanted to go to Manchester, following the Queen’s visit last week, to thank some of the police officers who were the first to arrive at the scene of the Manchester Arena attack.
Talking to a group of officers inside the headquarters of Greater Manchester Police he said: “You guys did a fantastic job, but hopefully you’ve been talking about what you saw and how it has affected you.
“Nobody can see that and not be affected by it, and when it’s children it’s horrendous.”
PC Mike Williams was one of the first responders on the night of the attack and met the Prince.
Speaking about the bombing he said: “I was obviously scared. To witness something I wouldn’t want anyone to witness, the scene that we went into. I was worried at the time.
“Four of the officers I was with at the time, two only had three months experience and two had five months so they were really inexperienced officers.
“But I can’t praise them enough, the four I was with in particular, the way they dealt with the situation was unbelievable, they were absolutely brilliant.”
PC David Lawrenson, who was there on the night and has worked every day since the attack, said: “I’ve spent quite a bit of time at St Anne’s square talking to people and the thanks we’re getting off the public is quite overwhelming.
“It’s really nice to see but obviously, on top of that, on goes everything that we deal with on a day-to-day basis. So we’ve just been getting on with that as we do, as we have to. People still require the police 24 hours a day.”
Prince William then travelled to Manchester Cathedral to meet members of the community who responded to the incident with small acts of kindness.
They included restaurant owners who had handed out free food and drink, taxi drivers who gave free lifts home, the owner of a tattoo parlour who has been raising money by giving people bee tattoos and mental health specialists who set up a pop-up consultation room to help those traumatised by the event.
William also met Owen Sanderson who works for Northern Rail and on the night of the bombing ran with his first aid kit to help the victims.
Explaining what the royal visit meant to him, he said: “Since last Monday I’ve had seven breakdowns because of the trauma. You can’t control it but I’ve been told it’s natural so it will go away.
“I think part of my emotion was the fact that the future king of England has come to Manchester to thank me personally, it’s the highest accolade you can get.”
At Manchester Children’s Hospital Prince William spent time privately with some of the victims and families whose relatives have been in intensive care.
Writing in a book of condolence at Manchester Cathedral, William wrote: “Manchester’s strength and togetherness is an example to the world. My thoughts are with all those affected.”
Last week the Queen also visited victims of the bombing and condemned the attack as “very wicked”.