Prince Harry flew out of Afghanistan on Monday night at the end of a four-month tour, during which he admitted killing insurgents while piloting his Apache helicopter and spoke in rare depth about the tensions and frustrations of being a royal who craved life out of the spotlight.
He also revealed his disdain and distrust of some sections of the media and described how his father constantly reminded him to behave more like a member of the royal family.
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Prince Harry says he killed insurgents
While on military deployment, Prince Harry reveals he killed Afghan insurgents as a gunner in Apache attack helicopters.
A commander of the army's most sophisticated attack helicopter, the prince said he had fired on the Taliban during operations to support ground troops and rescue injured Afghan and Nato personnel. His remarks may be seized upon by insurgents to stir anti-British sentiment, but the prince said he was only doing his job. Most of the time the helicopter acted more as a deterrent, he said.
"If there's people trying to do bad stuff to our guys, then we'll take them out of the game, I suppose," he said. "Take a life to save a life ... the squadron's been out here. Everyone's fired a certain amount."
In a series of interviews during his time based at Camp Bastion in Helmand province, he hinted at the difficulty of reconciling the different roles in his life. The prince, known as Captain Wales in the army, explained his "three mes". "One in the army, one socially in my own private time, and then one with the family and stuff like that. So there is a switch and I flick it when necessary."
Asked whether he felt more comfortable being Captain Wales than Prince Harry, his reply was one of the more revealing he has given about his relationship with Prince Charles: "Definitely. I've always been like that. My father's always trying to remind me about who I am and stuff like that. But it's very easy to forget about who I am when I am in the army.
"Everyone's wearing the same uniform and doing the same kind of thing. I get on well with the lads and I enjoy my job. It really is as simple as that."
He admitted he sometimes "let himself down" with his laddish behaviour, which he put down to "probably being too much army, and not enough prince", but he said he was entitled to privacy too.
In another unusually frank exchange, he aimed biting criticism at the media. The prince said he was particularly annoyed at articles comparing his role as a co-pilot gunner on the Apache with Spitfire crews waiting to scramble during the second world war. "No it's not like that at all," he said. "I don't know who quoted that."
Referring to the phone-hacking scandal that engulfed News International, he said: "It was probably the Sun newspaper, but because we haven't got mobile phones out here they obviously can't bug our phones so they don't know what we're saying."
The prince said his suspicion of the media was rooted in the treatment of his family when "I was very small", but that he couldn't help monitoring the stories written about him. "Of course I read them," the prince said. "All it does is just upset me and anger me that people can get away with writing the stuff they do. Not just about me, but about everything and everybody. My father always says, 'Don't read it'. Everyone says, 'Don't read it, because it's always rubbish'."
The prince was posted to Afghanistan last September to command a GBP45m Apache helicopter. During his tour the Apaches flew missions supporting Nato troops fighting the Taliban, and accompanied British Chinook and US Black Hawk medical helicopters during casualty evacuations.
If there's people trying to do bad stuff to our guys, then we'll take them out of the game, I suppose.
Four years ago the prince had to be spirited out of Afghanistan during his first tour after a media embargo was broken by mistake by an Australian magazine. This time, the Ministry of Defence chose to publicise his deployment on the understanding that newspapers and broadcasters would not give a running commentary on his life out there. Two-man crews from the BBC, Sky and ITN were sent once each to report on his visit, while a photographer and a reporter from the Press Association were embedded on all three visits.
Shortly before he went to Afghanistan the prince was caught in a media furore, when pictures emerged of him frolicking naked in Las Vegas at a party. Harry said he had let himself down, but also blamed the media. "I probably let myself down, I let my family down, I let other people down. But at the end of the day I was in a private area and there should be a certain amount of privacy that one should expect. It was probably a classic example of me probably being too much army, and not enough prince. It's a simple case of that."
Guardian News & Media