Prince Harry had once said that joining the British Army had given him an opportunity to escape the limelight. The 31-year-old prince paid a surprise visit to The Duke of York’s Royal Military School in Dover Monday. The students of the school were shocked to see the young royal, and did not believe their eyes.

Harry was dressed in his ceremonial uniform of the Blues and Royals regiment. The former Army captain had kept his visit a secret from all the students of the school, except for one person. Senior Under Officer Pasangnema Sherpa, 18, got the information from his senior, just in time to compose himself.

Sherpa then led his fellow pupils, a strong group of 406 students, on the parade ground. Students waited for their VIP guest, not knowing who the person was. They watched Harry emerge from the helicopter on their 150-acre grounds.

The students were overwhelmed as he arrived in Kent by helicopter. Harry inspected the school’s ceremonial parade and presented medals to some of the school children. He took time to talk to each of the students who were standing on the front row and gave medals to five students. Later he also attended a reception held in his honor. 

The young royal, who has spent 10 years in the Army, is a source of inspiration for the school students. “Prince Harry’s visit meant a great deal to students as his military career is an inspiration. Many of our students have parents serving overseas, and in conflicts previously experienced by Prince Harry himself,” said Chris Russell, executive principal of the school. He added that the visit of Harry will be treasured by students lifelong.

Kensington Palace took to Twitter and Instagram and shared the news and pictures of Harry’s visit to school in Southeast England.

The Duke of York’s Royal Military School is a boarding school with a rich military heritage. It enrols children from the age group of 11 to 18 years. Majority of the students attending the school have parents serving in the Armed Forces.

Prince Harry has served in the army for 10 years and opted for retirement in June 2014. In his military career spanning 10 years, he had the opportunity to be posted in Afghanistan twice.