UK’s Prince Harry in Australia for army stint
Prince Harry reported for duty with the Australian Army on Monday to begin an “authentic” experience featuring bush patrols and indigenous engagement, as he prepares to retire from the United Kingdom’s military.
Hundreds of well-wishers turned out to see the 30-year-old prince at the National War Memorial in Canberra — the one scheduled public event of his visit — before he met with the head of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin.
Wearing a white dress uniform, he reported for duty at Duntroon Military College, delivering a letter to Binskin from Queen Elizabeth II in which she wrote her grandson would “benefit greatly from spending time with the Australian diggers.” As well as her role in the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth II is also the Queen of Australia and ceremonial commander-in-chief of the Australian Defence Force.
After jetting in from Sydney, Prince Henry of Wales, as Harry is more formally known, arrived to cheers from the crowd of some 1,000 people at the war memorial in Canberra. After his arrival, he laid a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and toured galleries on World War I and Afghanistan.
The energetic royal then waved off the option of an umbrella and spent time greeting the crowd outside despite drizzling rain.
As some chanted “Harry, Harry, Harry,” the prince made his way around the barricades, and spoke to a ginger-haired child with a poster reading “Redheads Rule.”
“He said that I was fabulous in making the sign and it’s awesome to be a redhead,” a delighted Ethan Toscan, 12, told Australian Associated Press.
“I’m over the moon — it’s just wow! I got to shake his hand!”
During his time “Down Under,” Captain Wales, as he is known in the British Army, will be embedded with Australian army units and regiments in Sydney, Darwin and Perth.
“He is expected to take part in a range of unit-based activities and training exercises,” the Australian Defence Force said in a statement announcing his arrival last week.
“These will include urban training exercises, regional bush patrols, flight simulation and aviation activities, joint fire exercises and indigenous engagement activities.”
‘An authentic military
The prince, who has flown Apache helicopters for the UK, has reportedly also asked to fly choppers in Australia. A defense official has said checks would need to be carried out first.
Building on Prince Harry’s interest in veterans affairs, opportunities to meet with wounded, injured and ill service personnel will also be provided while in Australia.
The Australian military said it hopes to provide the prince with “an authentic military experience in the Australian Army,” adding that it will include routine activities, such as physical training, first aid training and pack marches.
The Australian army attachment comes as Prince Harry, a graduate from the elite Sandhurst military academy who served twice in Afghanistan, has announced his departure from the British Army.
“After a decade of service, moving on from the army has been a really tough decision,” he said last month, revealing he will quit in June.
“The experiences I have had over the last 10 years will stay with me for the rest of my life. For that I will always be hugely grateful.”
Harry earned a reputation as a wild-child in his early 20s with his party-going hi-jinks, but has since tried to carve out a more mature role for himself, with his devotion to military service playing a major part.
The prince will break his attachment to travel to Turkey later this month for the Anzac Day dawn service at Gallipoli, to mark the centenary since that World War I campaign.
Prince Harry — whose grandmother, Elizabeth II, is Queen of Australia — reacts after shaking hands with kids holding up a sign reading “Redheads Rule!” during a visit to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Australia on Monday, April 6.