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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 March 2008, 12:05 GMT
Prince Harry rejects 'hero' label
Prince Harry interviewed
Prince Harry said the experience was among the happiest of his life

Prince Harry has insisted he is not a hero and hailed the "humbling" bravery of his fellow soldiers after flying home early from a tour of Afghanistan.

In a wide-ranging interview, he spoke of the experience as among the happiest of his life and of his desire to return to the front line "very, very soon".

He also suggested a precedent may have been set enabling his brother, Prince William, to see active operations.

Harry's tour of duty was cut short after a media blackout broke down.

The leak led to fears he would be targeted by the Taleban and he was returned to the UK after 10 weeks.

On Saturday, he landed at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, where he was met by Prince Charles and Prince William.

Serving country

Speaking moments after his arrival, he dismissed the label, emphasising instead: "The bravery of the guys out there was humbling."

I'm looking forward to having a bath... but no, I would like to have stayed back with the guys
Prince Harry

"I wouldn't say I'm a hero," he said.

"There were two injured guys who came back on the plane with us who were essentially comatose throughout the whole way...those are the heroes, those were guys who had been blown up by a mine that they had no idea about, serving their country, doing a normal patrol.

"I was a bit shocked ...it is a bit of a choke in your throat because you know that it's happening.

"There's a lot of time when you are actually in theatre it isn't even mentioned that much."

He also talked about the rigours of his job and his role fighting the Taleban.

Adrenalin

"You do what you have to do, what's necessary to save your own guys. If you need to drop a bomb, worst case scenario, then you will, but then that's just the way it is.

"It's not nice to drop bombs and give that position to people to have to do but as I say, to save lives that's what happens."

Looking tired after the flight from Helmand Province, he also revealed he first realised his tour was being abruptly curtailed by overhearing coded radio messages about him.

Prince Harry tells two Afghan men the route around an army cordon
Harry relished the anonymity of living and working in the desert

He described his men as "gutted" by his departure but said he had fulfilled his dream of serving as a tank troop leader.

Harry said he was disappointed publicity from foreign media had ended his tour and praised the British media for keeping the secret of his deployment as long as it did.

"I was surprised by the way the British media kept to their side of the bargain. I hate to say it but, no, I'm very grateful for that and thanks to all the British media for keeping their mouths shut."

Taleban stronghold

He went on: "But I'm back here now and I suppose deep down inside it's quite nice, I'm looking forward to having a bath... but no, I would like to have stayed back with the guys."

Asked about his future, Harry, 23, said he would discuss the options with his commanding officer, but had no plans to quit the Army.

In operations you are kept on your toes the whole time, that's what guys join up for I guess, that adrenalin
Prince Harry

"I hope this has now been proven that the system can work and the British press go along with the deal, everything in place has proved that it can actually work," he said. "So I don't see why it can't work again.

"Hopefully for my brother as well, there's a possibility that it can work."

Harry said he would "love to go back out" to Afghanistan and had already told senior officers he wanted to return "very, very soon".

Prince Harry eats breakfast in the desert of Helmand Province
The prince said rank took a back seat in the challenging environment

"Once you are back from operations everything is a bit of an anti-climax, you go back to your unit and there you are, day-in day-out, the same routine, nothing changes and that's the way it is, nothing changes.

"At least in operations then you are kept on your toes the whole time, that's what guys join up for I guess, that adrenalin."

But The Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, said that any future deployments by the Prince would depend on the risk he posed to those serving alongside him.

"I would have to be clear that the the risks to the operation in the widest sense of the people deployed on that operation would be no higher than they would normally be in such circumstances," he told Sky News's Sunday Live programme.

'Hugely grateful'

The prince said that he had been in the desert close to the former Taleban stronghold of Musa Qaleh when the story broke.

Having taken part in an operation commanding a Spartan light tank with C Squadron of the Household Cavalry earlier this month, Harry had just taken over from his troop leader who had gone home for a two-week break.

He hailed his fellow soldiers as "a really good bunch of guys", adding: "Once you are out in the middle of the desert and all you depend on is one another, to look out for each other, then it comes down to the fact you are mates, all ranks aside, you are mates and you look out for each other."

Asked if it had been one of the happiest times in his life, he said: "Yes probably. It was fantastic ... I was hugely grateful for having the opportunity.

"I enjoyed being out there, every element had something different about it but actually being out in the middle of nowhere, with the stars out, is just a fantastic place to be."





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