Prince Harry: Muslim taunt in British military training 'went too far'

Tortured about his mother's death, the prince expressed revulsion over an exercise to prepare him for deployment to Afghanistan

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The British military subjected Prince Harry to Muslim taunts to prepare him for possible capture in Afghanistan, his new book claims.

In his memoir Spare, Harry writes about an army exercise in Cornwall, one of “the last hurdles for flight crews and pilots before deployment” in Afghanistan.

The exercise involved teaching survival techniques, such as how to catch and kill a chicken, and simulated a helicopter crash-landing behind enemy lines.

As they reached what they thought was the end, Prince Harry and his comrades were ambushed by a group of men in “camo jackets and black balaclavas”.

They wrapped blacked-out ski goggles over their eyes and zip-tied their hands before interrogating them.

Role-playing captors were used in the exercise with a woman in a scarf, seeking to exploit the duke's mother’s friendship with Dodi Fayed in the weeks before her death in a Paris car accident in 1997.

“She was wearing a shemagh over her face,” he writes. “She went on and on about something I didn’t understand. I couldn’t keep up.

“Then I realised. Mummy. She was talking about my mother. Your mother was pregnant when she died, eh? With your sibling? A Muslim baby!”

He said nothing, but “screamed with his eyes”, before she stormed out and one of the captors spat in his face. Senior officers later defended the exercise, saying “we felt you needed to be tested”, Prince Harry claims.

Prince Harry gives a TV interview in a helicopter hangar at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan in December 2012. Getty

“I didn’t answer,” he says. “But that took it a bit too far.”

The book details how Prince Harry was steeled to be captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan on his first Apache helicopter mission.

He writes of how 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.

A more experienced pilot turned them back to Camp Bastion in Helmand province, leaving the prince feeling cheated.

His admission in Spare that he killed 25 Taliban members during the war has sparked criticism from former military figures and protests in Helmand last weekend.

The prince was sent to Afghanistan in 2007, when the military posting was accompanied by a media blackout, and again in 2012.

“I wanted to go, go, go. I was willing to risk crashing, being taken prisoner — whatever,” he says of the 2012 Apache mission that was aborted.

He has written at length about his military experience, describing how he narrowly escaped being hit in 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 says.

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

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

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

“We swooped back to camp, critiqued the video. Perfect kill. We played some more PlayStation."

But later in the memoir he says 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 says.

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.

Updated: January 10, 2023, 1:03 PM
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