Prince William and Prince Harry helped flood-hit U.K. villagers protect their homes Friday, unloading sandbags alongside soldiers in the River Thames village of Datchet.

The princes, who have both served in the armed forces, joined a work crew from about 6 a.m. on what aides called a private visit.


Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, helps with flood defences at a gas station in Dachet, southern England, on Friday. (Paul Hackett/Reuters)

The princes were not the only royals helping out. Their grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, has sent feed and bedding from the royal farms at Windsor to farmers whose land has been inundated.

England, which has been lashed by wind and rain since December, had its wettest January since records began in 1766, and the rain has continued this month. Storms this week have brought wind gusts of more than 160 km/h.

Floods have drenched the southwestern coast of England, the low-lying Somerset Levels and the Thames Valley west of London, where hundreds of properties have been swamped after the river burst its banks.

Another bout of gale-force winds was hitting the country Friday, bringing large waves and up to four cm of rain.

Peter Willison of the Environment Agency said Friday's rainfall would send waters on the Thames and other rivers even higher, flooding hundreds more properties.

He said it would be "many days," and possibly weeks, before flooded rivers receded.