Photo: John Stillwell/AFP
Prince Harry has been accused of ingratitude and immaturity by senior military figures after an interview in Afghanistan in which he spoke of his life as a helicopter pilot.The Prince has angered officers at the upper echelons for suggesting he would rather be on the ground in Helmand than flying his Apache attack helicopter, and comparing his role to playing computer games.
One senior officer, speaking to The Sunday Telegraph anonymously, said the tone of the interview was wrong and that the Prince, who is Captain Harry Wales when in uniform, had adopted the language of a “spoilt, truculent teenager”.
He said Capt Wales sounded more like a “disgruntled soldier than an Army officer”, after complaining that life in the Army was “as normal as it was going to get” and speaking of being stared at by other soldiers in Camp Bastion.
There is particular concern at his attitude towards being an Apache pilot, one of the most difficult roles in the Army. The officer said that while there was no question that the Prince was hard-working, he should have had more respect for the role, and particularly the way in which his deployment to Afghanistan had come about.
The Prince served in Afghanistan in 2008 as a cavalry lieutenant, working as a forward air controller, but had to leave earlier than expected when his presence there was disclosed by foreign media.
The senior officer said: “When Harry was hauled home from Afghanistan last time, he threw his toys out of the pram and more or less said that if couldn’t return to Helmand, he would leave the Army.
“No one wanted Harry to leave in a huff so, with his approval, a career path was mapped out which would allow him to return to Helmand. A lot of people worked with Harry in helping him get into the Army Air Corps, where he has proved a great success.
“Now he seems to be saying that he only became a pilot so he could return to Afghanistan. He should think a little bit less about himself and perhaps a bit more about those who have helped him. He needs to wise up and accept that he is not a soldier but an Army officer — he is not “one of the boys” and never will be.”
The Prince also expressed the wish that he had not been in the air.
“My choice would have been back out on the ground with my regiment,” he said.
“For me it’s not that normal because I go into the cookhouse and everyone has a good old gawp, and that’s one thing that I dislike about being here. Which is probably another reason why I’d love to be out in the PBs [patrol bases], away from it all.”
The Sunday Telegraph is aware that concerns over the interview have also been expressed by other high-ranking officers.
The 28-year-old captain spent five months in Camp Bastion as a co-pilot gunner with the Army Air Corps’ Apache helicopters — a unit with reportedly the highest kill rate in Helmand. He described his job as a “joy”.
He upset elements of the top brass when he said: “I’m one of those people who loves playing PlayStation and Xbox, so with my thumbs, I like to think I’m probably quite useful”.
During one interview, Harry said that Apache pilots were often called upon to “take a life to save a life”.
His remarks were described as an “unnecessary own goal”.
The senior officer, said: “No one in the Army, especially an officer, should be so dismissive about taking life. I saw the interviews and thought ‘why did you say that?’. He clearly has not learnt to engage brain before mouth.”
After the interviews were broadcast, Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s spokesman, said Prince Harry was a “coward” for only speaking only after he was out of harm’s way.
“To describe the war in Afghanistan as a game demeans anyone, especially a prince, who is supposed to be made of better things,” he said.
However, many in senior ranks believe that he had performed well as a pilot, and other officers praised the future king’s brother for his courage and professionalism.
British Apaches regularly attack ground fire from insurgents and crews face a demanding workload .
One officer described the criticism of Harry voiced by others of similar high rank as “po-faced and pompous”. The officer said: “He risked his life every day to make sure that the soldiers on the ground had the air support they needed. As far as the majority of the Army are concerned, he did his job and that is all that matters.
“You’ve got to give the guy a break — he’s young, his language may have been a bit loose but so what? What other officer, of any rank, has to put up with what he has to? Unfortunately he wants to be an “average nobody” but it’s one thing he will never be.”
A former commander of Harry’s said: “Harry is great guy and a natural soldier — he gets on very well with all ranks. I think he should be applauded.”
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