Prince Harry has recalled the “horrendous” images he saw during two tours of Afghanistan when he encountered children who had died from roadside bombs and soldiers lying on the battlefield.
The Royal, who is a Captain in the Army, regularly flew injured personnel and civilians to the hospital at the Camp Bastion military base during his second tour of the country when he served as an Apache helicopter pilot.
Writing in the Sunday Times, Harry recalled flying home last year looking forward to seeing family but said it was then that he was “hit” by the reality of war as he was joined on the plane by injured and fallen soldiers.
“I had never seen it first-hand,” he wrote in the newspaper. “By ‘it’ I mean the injuries that were being sustained largely due to improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
“Loss of life is as tragic and devastating as it gets, but to see young lads – much younger than me – wrapped in plastic and missing limbs, with hundreds of tubes coming out of them, was something I never prepared myself for.”
In his role as a pilot the Prince, who took up a managerial office-based job in the Army this year, said the memory of having to use the code “Op vampire” to let the medical team know the casualty they had on board would require a lot of blood still sends shivers down his spine.
The staggering question of how people cope with the trauma of war, especially those left without limbs, was one Harry said played on his mind, and eventually led him to setting up the an international sporting competition for injured troops.
After a visit to a similar event, the Warrior Games in America, Harry said he was inspired by the efforts and achievements of amputees and others left with the scars of war.
The Invictus games – aiming to showcase the bravery and sporting prowess of more than 400 servicemen and women from 14 countries who have been left wounded by war – will take place next month at London’s Olympic park.
The Prince, whose Royal Foundation charity alongside the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge officially supports the event, said money can only go so far and the event is more about helping to redefine individuals.