Prince Harry surprised a 101-year-old World War Two veteran with a personal visit after he publicly thanked the royal for all he had done for service personnel.
Sgt James Norman Baker appeared live on a television screen during a wheelchair rugby match at the Invictus Games tonight to pay tribute to Harry for setting up the competition.
The 33-year-old prince, who himself served for a decade in the army including two tours of Afghanistan, was so moved that he ran up the stairs of the arena to find Sgt Baker, who was in a wheelchair, and greet him.
Personal meeting: Prince Harry surprised Sgt James Norman Baker at the Invictus Games wheelchair rugby tournament, after the World War II veteran made a speech about the royal
Speaking out: Sgt Baker, 101, thanked Harry, 33, for his work with military personnel as he made a speech which was shown on the big screen at the event
Happy as can be: The royal spoke with Sgt Baker, who is from Toronto, about his own personal story, learning more about where he served
Sinking to his knees, he held the old man’s hand and listened to him as he repeated his gratitude.
Sgt Baker said afterwards: ‘I wanted to show the athletes my support and enjoy the games. See their spirit.
‘They show amazing strength of character as well as body. I think they do a wonderful job.
‘It’s important because without this, a lot of them would not be where they are today.
‘It’s Prince Harry’s efforts that have encouraged them to find the competitive spirit, self-confidence and join in: make them feel as if they have a place in the world when they could have lost hope.’
Saying his own generation had ‘just had to do the best we could’ to recover from war on their own, he added: ‘Some of them didn’t have anything to live for.
‘Harry’s given them [this generation] that spirit.’
Helping hand: The wheelchair-bound veteran recalled his own experience of recovering after returning from the war, noting that many of his peers felt they ‘didn’t have anything to live for’
Making a change: He said that Prince Harry’s work has helped so many military men and women to rediscover their passion and their spirit
Role model: ‘Prince Harry’s efforts… make them feel as if they have a place in the world when they could have lost hope,’ he said during his speech
Low-key: Ever humble, Harry simply said of the veteran’s high praise, ‘He thanked me’
Asked about his conversation with the Prince, he said modestly: ‘He thanked me.’
As he told Harry his own story, the Prince exclaimed: ‘Wow, that’s amazing. Fantastic.’ He then checked that Sgt Baker had a VIP seat for the rest of the wheelchair rugby game.
Harry founded the Invictus Games, a Paralympic-style event for injured servicemen and women, which is being held in Toronto this year year, in 2014.
The idea behind it is to help facilitate their recovery both physically and mentally, but the. Games have also become renowned for their top class competition.
Sgt Baker, from Toronto, served with the Royal Regiment of Canada for four years. He was originally a company clerk for the regiment and not expected to fight, but saw action shortly after D-Day.
Mr Baker landed at Juno Beach six weeks after D-Day and was then part of the Allied Forces who moved through France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. In 2012, he met with the Prince of Wales when Charles presented new colours to the Royal Regiment at Varsity City, Toronto.
Earlier in the day on Thursday, Prince Harry gave a barn-storming speech today in which he implored young people to ‘look up from your phones’ and stand up for what they believe in.
The royal was the surprise guest at Toronto’s WE Day event, part of a global day of celebration to bring young people together and make change through social good.
More than 5,000 schoolchildren were in the city’s Air Canada Centre and gave Harry a tumultuous – almost evangelical – welcome when he appeared on stage.
The prince said there was too much cynicism and apathy in the world and called for young people put aside their fears and make their voice heard.
He said: ‘In today’s world too many people feel cynical and apathetic.
‘I get that the challenges we face sometimes seem complex and even scary, especially when we don’t know who to turn to for answers.
‘I know that while this generation of young people wants to make our world a better place, you often struggle to get your voices heard.
‘I know that you, more than any previous generation, care deeply about the health and sustainability of the planet you’re going to inherit.
‘And I see that you’re frustrated – that entrenched mindsets – are not keeping pace with the urgency – of the threats to our environment.
‘But today you are all saying no to pessimism and cynicism. Here in Toronto – with both WE day and the Invictus Games – we are saying yes to optimism, yes to hope, and yes to belief.
‘And we are putting service and giving back at the heart of everything that we do.
‘The thousands of you gathered here are proof that today’s generation of young people is the most connected, most energised, and most confident the planet has ever known.’
Casually dressed in a blue shirt and grey chinos, the prince admitted that he was somewhat older than many in the audience, but insisted that he understood the pressures they faced and called on them to be cautious about their use of social media.
He urged: ‘You know that differences of opinion, of circumstance, of race and religion – are to be respected and celebrated.
‘You know that in a clickbait culture, we cannot waste time sharing and drawing attention to things that make us angry, or that we know to be false.
‘You all know that it’s great to ‘like’ things on social media, but that it’s more important to look up from our phones, to get out into our communities, and to take real action; to stand up for what you believe in.’
He said he wanted to ‘make a deal’ with the young people there and encouraged them to take the time to go up and speak to the wounded 550 plus service men and women that were in the city of his Invictus Games and asked about their stories.
He described the competitors as ‘proving to the world that great challenges can be confronted with resilience and determination, when you live by the values of service, duty and respect’.
He also said they were proof that people can succeed when we have ‘purpose in our lives’
Surprise! The royal appeared at Toronto’s WE Day event earlier in the day, where he gave a barn-storming speech today in which he implored young people to ‘look up from your phones’
For good: WE Day is a global day of celebration to bring young people together and make change through social good
Understanding: The prince said there was too much cynicism and apathy in the world and called for young people put aside their fears and make their voice heard
‘If you see them around town, introduce yourselves, make some new friends, hear what they and their families have been through. Hear how they have overcome incredible challenges, and let yourselves be inspired,’ he urged.
In return, he vowed to do everything in his power to support them and create a platform ‘where your voices can be heard and your ideas taken seriously.’
He joked: ‘Sadly, I’m now part of a slightly older generation!
‘But in the years to come I want to work with you to help encourage, identify and support the new generation of leadership, both local and global leaders.
‘Today at WE day, you’re not surrounded by negativity. You’re not fighting on your own. You are working together, you are supporting each other. And together, you are going to change the world.’
The prince’s confidently-delivered speech was greeted with screams that roared around the stadium, louder even than some of the pop stars such as Kelly Clarkson, who had earlier spoken to the auditorium.
WE day is a worldwide day of celebration encouraging young people to make change through social good.
Toronto’s event was held in the Air Canada Centre and involved more than five thousand school children, who all earned their place by taking part in one local and one global good cause.