10 January 2023

Harry: I was prepared to risk capture in Afghanistan to carry out first mission

10 January 2023

The Duke of Sussex has said he was willing to risk being taken prisoner in Afghanistan to carry out his first Apache helicopter mission.

Harry, writing in his memoir Spare, said he had been prepared to ignore a “land now” warning light in his helicopter cockpit which meant an operation during his second frontline tour in 2012 had to be abandoned.

The duke said a more experienced flier turned them back to Camp Bastion in Helmand province, leaving Harry feeling cheated.

“I wanted to go, go, go. I was willing to risk crashing, being taken prisoner – whatever,” he said.

Harry’s admission in his book that he killed 25 Taliban members during the war in Afghanistan sparked protests in Helmand over the weekend and criticism from former military figures.

He has written in depth about his military experience overseas, describing how he narrowly escaped being hit by a huge explosion during his first stint in the country in 2007-08.

“I felt it in my brain. I looked around. Everyone was on their stomachs,” he said.

He recalled one of his comrades whispering again and again: “F*** me, that was close.”

On his second tour, for which he retrained as an Apache helicopter pilot, the duke recalled: “I was the first in my squadron to pull the trigger in anger.”

In a military context, to “fire in anger” means to shoot for a purpose in war.

Harry said he had killed before but it was “my most direct contact with the enemy ever” as he targeted Taliban fighters riding motorbikes.

He also described how he ran out of “piss bags” after spending eight hours in the air one day.

In the book he said the thumbstick he fired was “remarkably similar” to the thumbstick for the PlayStation game he played at camp.

The duke added: “We swooped back to camp, critiqued the video. Perfect kill. We played some more PlayStation.”

But later in the memoir he said he threw down a newspaper in disgust when he saw the headline “Harry compares killing to video game” after mentioning the similarity in a media interview.

The duke recounts how he realised his secret tour of duty had been exposed in 2008 when he overheard coded messages that suggested “Red Fox” was about to be murdered.

“I blinked at the radio and knew with total certainty that Red Fox was me,” he said.

Harry had his cover blown when an Australian magazine leaked the news that he was serving on the ground in the conflict. He was pulled out of the country.

But he also opens up about the impact the war had on him.

When he returned home in 2012 to meet then-girlfriend Cressida Bonas, he says she and his cousin Princess Eugenie told him he looked in some way like a different person, which he described as frightening and off-putting for Ms Bonas.

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