London: Prince Harry flew out of Afghanistan on Monday night and admitted he had killed for the first time.
Thoughtful but unrepentant, he said soldiers sometimes had to “take a life to save a life.”
In an interview to mark the end of his four-month tour of duty as an Apache attack helicopter pilot, the third in line to the throne confirmed he had been directly responsible for the deaths of one or more insurgents as a co-pilot gunner.
Asked if he had killed from the cockpit of his £40 million (Dh233 million0 aircraft, the 28-year-old prince said matter-of-factly: “Yeah, so lots of people have. The squadron’s been out here. Everyone’s fired a certain amount.”
Harry discusses his military career, becoming an uncle — and the notorious photos of him gallivanting naked in Las Vegas shortly before his deployment.
On Monday night, as he began a few days of relaxation at a British base in Cyprus before returning to Britain, he admitted
that while Prince Charles is “always trying to remind me about who I am,” he prefers to live by his own motto: “Work hard, play hard.”
In the interview, Harry also:
* Reveals his brother William is jealous at not being allowed to fly helicopters in Afghanistan.
* Says he ‘can’t wait’ to become an uncle to William and Kate’s baby.
* Bemoans the fact that despite being one of the world’s most eligible bachelors he “ain’t ever going to find” someone who wants to “jump in” and become his wife.
* Suggests his skill at PlayStation computer games may have made him a better pilot.
His admission that he killed insurgents is likely to be seized on by the Taliban for propaganda purposes. But the prince is unapologetic, saying: “Take a life to save a life, that’s what we revolve around. If there’s people trying to do bad stuff to our guys, then we’ll take them out of the game.
“I’m not here on a free pass...our job out here is to make sure the guys are safe on the ground and if that means shooting someone who is shooting them, then we will do it.”
A senior Army source said: “Harry is flying an attack helicopter and that’s one of the jobs the guys do: Attack. It would be unthinkable for a gunner to go on a deployment and not have several engagements with the enemy. Of course he has killed.”
Harry was deployed with 662 Squadron, 3 Regiment Army Air Corps, to Camp Bastion in Southern Helmand in September.
His first tour of duty as a forward air commander on the ground was cut short in 2008 when news of his deployment leaked in the US. Ministry of Defence officials deemed his continued presence there a risk to his fellow soldiers. Desperate to return to the front line, he retrained as a helicopter pilot and was picked to fly the 200mph Apache, the pride of the military’s airborne fleet, with his finger on the trigger of an arsenal of weapons including rockets, missiles and a 30mm cannon.
British media were given unprecedented access during his time in Afghanistan in return for not speculating about his deployment in advance or publishing information that could exacerbate potential danger.
It is when talking about his work as an Apache pilot that he is clearly at his most comfortable.
Harry — Captain Wales in the Army — was sent on all manner of missions over Helmand, from supporting Allied troops fighting the Taliban at close quarters to accompanying British Chinook and US Black Hawk helicopters on casualty evacuation missions. He has been hailed by his colleagues and superiors for being “on top of his game” during the tour.
Harry was given no special treatment and worked, ate and slept in the same basic conditions as the other pilots. It is, in his own words, “as normal as it’s going to get. I’m one of the guys, I don’t get treated any differently.”
He admits that his work is interspersed with periods of intense boredom while waiting for a call-out and he whiled away his time watching DVDs and playing computer games.
He even allowed himself to be photographed wearing a silly Santa hat, complete with blond plaits, to make his colleagues breakfast at Christmas and turn on their festive lights.
His father, he revealed, had sent him a food parcel containing a jar of Clarence House garden honey and a box of huge Cuban cigars.