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The Prince of Wales has recalled his first parachute drop almost 50 years ago in Dorset, “initially upside down with my legs in the rigging lines”.

Charles, 72, was speaking as he presented new Colours to the Parachute Regiment at a ceremony at Merville Barracks in Colchester, Essex.

The prince was 23 years old when he completed his first parachute drop on July 29 1971 from an Andover aircraft into Studland Bay, Dorset.

He was training as a jet pilot during a four-month attachment with the Royal Air Force at the time.

Upon his appointment as Colonel in Chief of The Parachute Regiment in 1977, the prince requested to join a parachute training course at RAF Brize Norton in 1978.

Addressing soldiers, veterans and families on Tuesday, he said: “I find it hard to believe that it’s been 44 years since I became your Colonel in Chief and nearly 50 years since I made my first parachute drop, initially upside down with my legs in the rigging lines, into Studland Bay, Dorset, where I was pulled out of the water by the Royal Marines.”