UK/Suffolk: Prince Harry was just “one of the guys”
PUBLISHED: 19:51 21 January 2013 | UPDATED: 19:52 21 January 2013
WORKING with his Suffolk squadron in Afghanistan was “as normal as it’s going to get” for Prince Harry.
Away from camera lenses, media speculation and royal engagements, he could get on with his day job in relative anonymity.
Within his unit he was just “one of the guys” - Harry to his friends and superiors, Captain Wales to everybody else. “It’s completely normal,” he said while on duty at the Apache flight line in Camp Bastion.
The royal lived in a shared room in an accommodation block made of modified shipping containers with another attack helicopter pilot and had the freedom to walk around the base, to visit the gym, eat in the canteen and drop off his laundry.
However, he was still irritated by unwanted attention in the more public places, away from his 130-strong 662 Squadron, 3 Regiment Army Air Corps (AAC).
“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,” he said.
“Because there’s plenty of guys in there that have never met me, therefore look at me as Prince Harry and not as Captain Wales, which is frustrating.
“Which is probably another reason why I’d love to be out in the PBs (patrol bases), away from it all.
“But yeah, it’s completely normal. It’s as normal as it’s going to get. I’m one of the guys. I don’t get treated any differently.”
Harry’s closest friends in his unit - nicknamed 662 “Royal” Squadron by other AAC soldiers - were the other crew members on his flight of two aircraft.
While on duty waiting for call-outs they played the military board-game Uckers, watched films, played computer games and chatted.
Captain Simon Beattie, the commander of Harry’s flight of four men, is also a co-pilot gunner and has known the prince for over a year.
“It’s easy to put aside the fact he’s the third-in-line to the throne,” the 30-year-old from Bath said.
“He’s a normal guy. He’s someone I consider a friend and someone I enjoy working with, so it’s not something you notice.”
Does he think twice before unleashing some military banter on the royal?
“Not at all, because he’s pretty forward on the banter as well,” he said.
“It’s just part of us all being together.
“If you put a group of guys together anywhere, take the beers out of the equation, you still get the fun and the messing around that happens.”
Sergeant James John, another pilot in 662 Sqn, said: “Captain Wales is just another member of the squadron and another member of our flight, and we all work together, the same as we would with anyone else that comes in and out of the crews, so it’s a situation-no-change.”
Harry’s squadron commander, Major Ali Mack, likened his unit to a “family”, and said the royal settled in quickly when he arrived in September last year.
“He is, as far as I’m concerned, given no special treatment,” the 37-year-old from Glasgow said. “I treat him very much as I do the rest of my officers within the squadron.”