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A former soldier has described how Prince William held his head and exchanged “military banter” with him for half an hour after he was knocked unconscious by a tree branch.

Jim Schembri didn’t know the Duke of Cambridge had come to his rescue when he suffered a nasty accident at work on Tuesday. The 37-year-old, who used to serve in the Light Infantry, joked that he didn’t want William flying him to hospital in the air ambulance before realising he was already looking after him.

“I remember the helicopter landing and the doctor talking to me and someone was supporting my head,” said Jim. “He asked me if I was a bootneck as he had spotted a Royal Marines charity band on my arm. Then he said ‘you’ve got an ex-army air corp working on you. I still didn’t twig that it was Prince William and we joked around, exchanging military banter for about half an hour. When they loaded me into the helicopter I said ‘William had better not be flying this’ and he said ‘I’ve been holding your head for the last half an hour.’ I was totally shocked.”

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Jim, who has been a tree surgeon for 14 years, had been working in a garden in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, when the accident happened. He was 20ft up a tree when he made a cut and the top of the tree “exploded” sending a large branch, measuring around a foot in diameter, crashing onto his shoulder and back and crushing him against the tree. Jim was knocked unconscious but gradually came round and managed to make his way back down the tree.

“I was in a huge amount of pain and my hip, back and shoulders were hurting. I was in complete agony,” he said. His colleague called for an ambulance and they thought he had damaged his pelvis so called the East Anglian Air Ambulance to airlift him to hospital.

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