The Duchess of Cornwall was left a little battered by the elements today when she visited troops preparing to deploy to Afghanistan.

Camilla met soldiers from 4th Battalion, The Rifles and, as their royal colonel, was given the honour of travelling in a Husky armoured vehicle as she watched them training on Salisbury Plain.

She remained smiling even though at one point her transparent umbrella collapsed during a fierce gust and her hair blew across her face.

As the Duchess toured Bulford Camp, Wiltshire, she opened the officers' mess and also joined soldiers and their wives, girlfriends and children at a reception.

Lieutenant Colonel Tom Bewick, the unit's commanding officer, said: "We put her in a Husky armoured vehicle, which I think is the first time she's been in one of those.

"We took her on a jaunt around the training area ending up at a demonstration of a compound clearance."

The battalion is training ahead of deployment in the summer to Afghanistan, where they will be working alongside the Afghan army.

Camilla had a chance to see some of the kit the soldiers will take with them, from ear defenders to protective glasses, and was also shown hi-tech equipment like night sights, laser finders and cameras.

When she tried to pick up the body armour the troops have to wear she joked with Corporal Steve Rendell about its weight.

He said: "She was very impressed with the equipment we get issued now, she just wanted to feel the weight we were carrying and also look through some of the sights.

"She said you had to be pretty fit to carry that. I just told her that was only half the weight."

Speaking about the training exercise the Duchess saw, Lt Col Bewick said: "We were training for a summer tour and squelching up to our knees in mud. I think last week we were up to our knees in snow.

"There was a serious side to it and the Duchess was there to see us prepare as well as we can for the challenges that lie ahead."