Prince Harry's Spare: Iraq deployment fiasco 'almost forced me to quit Army'

Insurgents were going to kidnap me, then decide whether to torture, ransom or kill me, says royal

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Prince Harry was on the verge of quitting the British Army after the most senior general scrapped his deployment to Iraq following threats from insurgents, he reveals in his memoir Spare.

After a happy cadetship and graduation from the Sandhurst Royal Military Academy, Prince Harry was told he would be part of the UK deployment to Iraq in late 2006.

“Specifically southern Iraq. My unit would be relieving another unit, which had spent months doing advanced reconnaissance,” he writes. “Dangerous work, constantly dodging roadside IEDs and snipers.

“In that same month 10 British soldiers had been killed. In the previous six months, 40.”

“The Ministry of Defence told the world in February 2007 that I was deploying.”

Prince Harry said the announcement that he was going to the most dangerous deployment facing UK troops divided the public 50:50. Some opposed putting a royal in the line of danger, others backed his readiness to share the risk of other soldiers.

However, what was decisive was that the enemy turned out to have a voice.

“We are awaiting the arrival of the handsome young prince with bated breath,” he quotes from a press report. “There was a plan for me, the insurgent leader said. They were going to kidnap me, then decide what to do with me — torture, ransom, kill.”

Another warned the 2nd lieutenant in the Blues and Royals of the Household Cavalry to rebel like his mother against the imperialists. A prince's blood will “flow in our desert”.

It was too much for the head of the UK military, Gen Sir Richard Dannatt, who was spooked by an intelligence report that Prince Harry's photograph had circulated among Iraqi sniper groups as the “mother of all targets”. The cell had already been credited with killing six UK soldiers.

“I pondered quitting the army,” he writes, as he partied hard instead of travelling to a war zone. He writes of photographers dogging his nights out. He described them as “radicalised”, much like young men in Iraq.

With his police bodyguard he developed a routine of leaving places by getting into the boot of the car and being driven away — just as a hostage would travel.

Prince Harry has also written of his Afghanistan tours of duty. He estimates that he killed 25 Taliban fighters there, saying he watched video footage of operations to tally the number.

Spare has been released to account for his life and the events that led him to move with his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, to California for a fresh start.

While serving as an Apache helicopter pilot, Prince Harry was sent to Helmand province in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on the US. The prince spent 10 years in the military, including two frontline tours to Afghanistan.

“Naturally, I would have preferred not to have that figure on my military resume, or in my head, but I would also have preferred to live in a world without the Taliban, a world without war,” he writes of the killings.

“However, even for a casual practitioner of wishful thinking like myself, there are realities that cannot be changed.”

Tory MP Tobias Ellwood has suggested the Duke of Sussex’s admission that he killed 25 people in Afghanistan could create security risks for the Invictus Games, founded and promoted by Prince Harry.

Mr Ellwood, a senior backbencher and chairman of the Commons Defence Committee, said the revelation in Harry’s memoir was “ill-advised”.

“I do worry that this is going to have security implications,” he told Sky News.

Speaking about the Invictus Games, he said: “One of the rare occasions that I worked with Prince Harry was in the Invictus Games in Sydney and in Toronto and so forth. Incredible effort. This was his design, this was his creation.

“And I’m now concerned that something which has been so important to veterans to help rehabilitation will now suffer because there could be security implications of him participating in that.”

Updated: January 10, 2023, 12:11 PM