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Grieving father of soldier who served with Harry condemns Duke’s revelations he killed 25 Taliban fighters in Afghanistan as a ‘terrible mistake’, as mental health experts say Prince’s claims have distressed veterans suffering from battlefield trauma

  • Derek Hunt’s son Nathan served as a bomb-disposal expert with Harry in 2008
  • Nathan was found dead in January 2018 having taken his own life due to PTSD
  • An ex-Army mental health expert said several patients had approached him following Prince Harry’s comments on killing Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan

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Prince Harry’s boasts that he killed 25 Taliban fighters have been condemned as a ‘terrible mistake’ by the grieving father of one of his Afghanistan comrades, who killed himself after returning home.

Derek Hunt, whose son Nathan served as a bomb-disposal expert with Harry’s unit in 2008, said: ‘A lot of soldiers and veterans will find his comments about killing very upsetting – and perhaps [they] may even trigger some people into having flashbacks of their time in combat.’

It comes as an ex-Army mental health expert told the Mail on Sunday he had been contacted by upset former patients who read about the Duke of Sussex‘s comments in his forthcoming memoir, Spare.

In the book, Harry breached a long-standing military custom by going into detail about shooting insurgents from his Apache helicopter gunship. He said he rationalised the killing by regarding the enemy fighters as pieces on a chess board.

File photo dated 27/02/08 of Warrant Officer Nathan Hunt during his deployment to Helmand province in southern Afghanistan

File photo dated 27/02/08 of Warrant Officer Nathan Hunt during his deployment to Helmand province in southern Afghanistan

File photo dated 27/02/08 of Warrant Officer Nathan Hunt (front right) with Prince Harry (back centre), Dean Smith (back left) and other members of their battle group on deployment in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. Mr Hunt, who was mentioned in dispatches for his courage in locating roadside bombs while serving alongside Prince Harry in Afghanistan was found hanged after suffering years of nightmares and sleepless nights

File photo dated 27/02/08 of Warrant Officer Nathan Hunt (front right) with Prince Harry (back centre), Dean Smith (back left) and other members of their battle group on deployment in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. Mr Hunt, who was mentioned in dispatches for his courage in locating roadside bombs while serving alongside Prince Harry in Afghanistan was found hanged after suffering years of nightmares and sleepless nights

Derek and Maria Hunt, parents of Nathan Hunt, Royal Engineer, who took his own life in Jan 2018

Derek and Maria Hunt, parents of Nathan Hunt, Royal Engineer, who took his own life in Jan 2018

In his memoir 'Spare', Harry breached a long-standing military custom by going into detail about shooting insurgents from his Apache helicopter gunship

In his memoir ‘Spare’, Harry breached a long-standing military custom by going into detail about shooting insurgents from his Apache helicopter gunship

Nathan Hunt, a warrant officer in the Royal Engineers, is said to have saved Harry’s life on numerous occasions when he discovered hidden roadside bombs buried by insurgents.

But he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after coming home from war, and took his own life in January 2018 while still serving in the Army.

Soon afterwards, Harry penned a moving letter to Mr Hunt and his wife, Maria, writing: ‘Grief can be a long and burdensome road. Please know you and your family remain in my thoughts.’

Mr Hunt, also an Army veteran, said his son would have been ‘disappointed’ by Harry’s comments about killing insurgents, adding: ‘Many of those still serving or who are veterans would have spent years trying to forget about the fact that they have killed people.

‘Taking someone’s life is a very difficult thing to live with for most people – it’s not something to boast about. That’s why they never talk about it.

‘My son Nathan never told us about what he had seen or done because he knew it would be upsetting for us and he didn’t want to relive it.

‘He suffered from nightmares because of what he had witnessed and he also suffered from PTSD. Harry’s boasts about killing people and removing them from the battlefield will not sit comfortably with a lot of people and will bring back a lot of bad memories.

‘I really can’t understand why Harry has done this. It’s thoughtless. He doesn’t seem to have given it any consideration.’

Previously unissued picture dated 12/12/2012 of Prince Harry at Camp Bastion southern Afghanistan, where he served as an Apache Helicopter Pilot/Gunner with 662 Sqd Army Air Corps

Previously unissued picture dated 12/12/2012 of Prince Harry at Camp Bastion southern Afghanistan, where he served as an Apache Helicopter Pilot/Gunner with 662 Sqd Army Air Corps

Prince Harry mans a 50mm machine gun aimed at Taliban fighters on January 2, 2008 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan

Prince Harry mans a 50mm machine gun aimed at Taliban fighters on January 2, 2008 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan

Taliban fighters patrol along a street during a demonstration by people to condemn the recent protest by the Afghan women's rights activists, in Kabul on January 21, 2022

Taliban fighters patrol along a street during a demonstration by people to condemn the recent protest by the Afghan women’s rights activists, in Kabul on January 21, 2022

Leading military figures have already criticised Harry’s remarks, voicing their concern that they could ‘trigger’ trauma for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Last night, such fears were confirmed as it emerged that veterans with mental health issues who had seen news reports about Harry’s claims have called on professionals for support.

Former Army Major Cormac Doyle, a mental health nurse who served for 25 years and specialised in treating service personnel with mental health problems including PTSD, said: ‘I’ve already received calls from many of my former patients who are very upset by what Harry has said. In all my years serving and treating troops I’ve never heard anyone speak like this.

‘Harry is meant to be a mental-health campaigner, so what he said was badly thought out. This is not what I expected from him as a member of the Royal Family, but also, more importantly, as a former Army officer. Words have implications, and he has upset a lot of people struggling mentally.’

It will come as a devastating blow to Harry, who spent years building up his reputation as a mental-health campaigner. 

Taliban fighters guard outside the airport in Kabul on August 31, 2021

Taliban fighters guard outside the airport in Kabul on August 31, 2021

Prince Harry being shown the Apache flight-line by a member of his squadron (name not provided) at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, where he operated from during his tour of duty as a co-pilot gunner

Prince Harry being shown the Apache flight-line by a member of his squadron (name not provided) at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, where he operated from during his tour of duty as a co-pilot gunner

One Guards officer said: ‘Most of us have spent the last decade dodging probing dinner party questions by drunk guests with the gory fascination of the hardest part of service life.

‘By revealing his war tally in such a public way he will no doubt drag up many of the ghosts of this conflict for other veterans.’

Former Army Major Wayne Owers, 52, a highly decorated soldier who was discharged with PTSD, said: ‘As a campaigner for mental-health awareness, he should be acutely aware of the impact his comments will have on those he apparently strives to support. Harry’s comments are insensitive and unnecessary.’

Trevor Coult, a Colour Sergeant who was awarded the Military Cross, warned: ‘There is a reason why most veterans don’t like to talk about what they did in combat and that’s because it takes them back to a very dark place.

‘For a so-called mental-health campaigner to talk like this is shameful and his words will trigger very many bad memories for a lot of traumatised veterans.’

Falklands veteran and former Royal Marines Sergeant-Major Jeff Williams, 64, of the support group Veterans United Against Suicide, added: ‘For many veterans this will bring back terrible memories of killing and losing friends in combat.

‘I’m amazed that Harry, who is meant to be a mental-health campaigner, has not realised this. It is crass in the extreme.’

Last night, a spokesman for the veterans charity PTSD Resolution, which has helped more than 3,500 cope with PTSD, said the organisation was working to ‘manage’ the fallout from Harry’s book.

Source: Daily Mail UK

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