Prince Harry has confirmed he killed Taliban insurgents during his latest tour of Afghanistan, saying: “We fire when we have to – take a life to save a life.”
The third-in-line to the throne is on his way home after a five-month tour of the war-torn country as an Apache pilot gunner, where he said his unit took enemy fighters “out of the game”.
The prince’s job meant he was in the front seat of the attack helicopter, controlling an array of weapons including a 30mm cannon and hellfire missiles.
:: Watch the documentary about Prince Harry’s time in Afghanistan – Harry: Back On The Frontline – at 9.30pm on Sky News.
When asked if he had killed from the cockpit the 28-year-old replied: “Yeah, so lots of people have.”
However Captain Wales, as he is known in the Army Air Corps, said the sight of an Apache was often enough to make Taliban fighters flee.
“They look at us and just go ‘Right, that’s an unfair fight, we’re not going to go near them’.
“But occasionally we get taken on, even when we are overhead.”
The prince’s duties included stints as part of the Very High Readiness (VHR) team at Camp Bastion in Helmand, which meant whiling away the hours playing board games and sleeping fully clothed awaiting a call 24 hours a day.
He said his crew got their response time down to just “six and a half or seven minutes”.
Once airborne the task could be anything from medical evacuation of a wounded soldier, to firing on the enemy who might have coalition troops pinned down.
“Every time you run the aircraft you get that adrenaline rush and then once you’re in the aircraft you’ve got to try and slow yourself down because otherwise, if the adrenaline is pumping too much, if you’re going too fast you’re going to miss something.”
For the most part 662 Squadron treated their Royal colleague as just one of the team, but when the prince had to mix with other soldiers at Camp Bastion in Helmand, he sometimes felt uncomfortable.
“I go to the cookhouse and everyone has a good gawp.
“That’s one thing that I dislike about being here, because there’s plenty of guys in here who’ve never met me and think of me as Prince Harry as opposed to Captain Wales, which is frustrating.”
While he enjoyed Army life, the prince described a Taliban attack on the camp last September as a “reality check”.
Insurgents broke into the heavily armed base, killing two US marines and wrecking equipment.
“This camp is in the middle of Afghanistan so you should expect to be attacked at any point.
“The guys dealt with it really well and it was on my birthday, so it was a bit of a reality check.”
Harry’s first tour of Afghanistan in 2008 was cut short when foreign media broke a news blackout, and he had to come home early.
He is bitter about being pulled out last time, and would have gone back to his old regiment – part of the Household Cavalry – if he could.
However, it was deemed to be too dangerous.
“My choice would have been out on the ground with my regiment. That sounds quite spoilt when I’m standing in front of this thing (an Apache helicopter).”
Harry and his squadron now plan to spend time “decompressing” – letting their hair down in Cyprus – before flying back home for a few weeks’ leave.
After that, Harry’s plans are less clear.
“I’ll always be here for my grandmother and whoever needs to send me abroad for whatever reason,” he said.
“I don’t really have any plans. This was my main effort to get back out to Afghanistan – that’s another tick in the box.
“As to how long I’m going to spend in the Army, who knows? I will continue to bounce between my Army job and the other job.”