Princes William and Harry today joined the flood relief effort by helping soldiers to lay sandbags in Datchet.
The royal brothers secretly joined members of Harry’s Household Cavalry regiment to shore up the defences just a stone’s throw from the Queen’s residence, Windsor Castle.
Their trip to the front line of the crisis contrasts with Environment Agency boss Chris Smith, who remained in London today as much of the country prepared for the possibility of further flooding.
According to sources, William and Harry had been keen to play a part for some days but did not want to publicise their presence for fear of distracting from the crisis facing householders.
They joined military personnel at 6am this morning and had hoped to stay working all day. But by mid morning, word of their presence had already slipped out.Harry was wearing his army fatigues while William was in ‘civilian’ dress.
A royal aide said: ‘This is not something they wanted publicised and it was only decided on Wednesday night.
‘They were very keen to help with the flood relief effort and thought that joining the military would be the best way.’
A Buckingham Palace spokesman told MailOnline: ‘They joined the Household Cavalry this morning from 6am and they have been helping to build walls of sandbags.’
When Harry was asked by reporters if he was enjoying helping out, he replied: ‘Not really, with you guys around.’
While the floodwaters have receded since their peak earlier this week, 2in of rain was set to fall today with more tomorrow, raising the possibility of homes and businesses facing fresh horror over the weekend.
When Harry was asked by reporters if he was enjoying helping out, he replied: ‘Not really, with you guys around’
The princes helped by unloading sandbags from military trucks onto freight trains which would then take them to areas where they are most needed.
They are no strangers to working in disaster zones and providing emergency relief – William has worked as a rescue helicopter pilot, while Harry has served two tours of duty in Afghanistan.
The Queen, William and Harry’s grandmother, has also been lending a hand to flood victims by providing farmers with a way to look after their livestock during the crisis.
A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: ‘The Queen is supporting Somerset farmers affected by the flooding on the Somerset Levels by contributing feed and bedding from the royal farms at Windsor.’
The public statement came as Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg denied a report that the Queen criticised the Government response to the floods in a private meeting with him in his role as president of the Privy Council.
Asked on LBC radio whether it was true that the Queen had ‘waded in’ over flooding, Mr Clegg replied: ‘No.’ He declined to discuss the content of their conversations any further.
But the fact that her efforts have been made public will be seen as a coded rebuke to the Government’s reaction to the widespread devastation caused by the extreme weather.
Meanwhile, Lord Smith – a former Labour minister who has been heavily criticised for his response to the floods crisis – was far away from affected areas as he was seen outside his home in Islington.
The grandee has faced repeated calls for his resignation over accusations the Environment Agency exacerbated the scale of the disaster by failing to dredge vulnerable rivers.
Reports by Daily Mail online