Prince's cover in Afghanistan blown by Drudge Report

view gallery VIEW GALLERY





An American website, the Drudge Report, broke a news blackout yesterday by revealing that Prince Harry has been serving in Afghanistan for more than two months.



Watch video



To the fury of the Ministry of Defence and condemnation from the head of the British Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, the website announced a "world exclusive" and proclaimed: "They're calling him 'Harry the Hero!".

The article brought to an end an agreement with the media that the Prince's deployment to Helmand be kept quiet in the interests of his safety and that of the soldiers with him.

The decision to send Prince Harry, 23, to Afghanistan under a cloak of secrecy came after the furore that followed the revelation of his proposed deployment to Iraq. Much to the Prince's frustration, General Dannatt announced in May last year that it would be too risky, fearing the Prince and his comrades in the Household Cavalry would become top priority targets for insurgents.

Immediately, officers decided the only way the third-in-line to the throne could continue to do his duty without creating an additional security risk was to send him secretly, calling on the media to co-operate in a news blackout.

By July, editors of key newspapers and broadcasting organisations were sounded out to see if such assistance would be forthcoming. Without dissent, all agreed that it was the only sensible and safe solution.

In December, days before Cornet Wales – as the Prince is known in The Blues and Royals – deployed to Helmand, editors met MoD officials and signed an understanding setting out the terms of the news blackout. While not a legally binding document, it was a statement of faith from the British press.

It is thought the source for the Drudge Report article was a story printed last month in an Australian women's magazine, New Idea. The Drudge Report is most famous for breaking the Monica Lewinsky scandal after Newsweek decided not to publish the story.

At 3.30pm yesterday the MoD received a call, confirming fears that a foreign news organisation would break the silence. A decision was taken to make a formal statement confirming the Prince had been in Afghanistan.

"I am very disappointed that foreign websites have decided to run this story without consulting us. This is in stark contrast to the highly responsible attitude that the whole of the UK print and broadcast media, along with a small number of overseas outlets, who have entered into an understanding with us over the coverage of Prince Harry on operations," General Dannatt said.

"The editors took the commendable attitude to restrain their coverage. I would like to thank them for that."

Like his brother, Prince Harry had trained to be a troop leader of a group of four to six Scimitar armoured reconnaissance vehicles. He considered leaving the Army when told it was too dangerous for him to go to Iraq but accepted an offer to retrain as a battlefield air controller.

The Queen broke the news to her grandson that he was being sent to Afghanistan, a decision she strongly supported. Except for the media, only close family and friends and as few as 15 MoD officials were told in advance.

Deployed on 14 December, he spent time at the Forward Operating Bases Dwyer and Delhi in a Taliban-infiltrated area to the far south of the province, working with the 1st Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles. Although the Prince's work involved regular radio contact with pilots from several countries, they knew him only by his call sign.

He has since left Garmsir to work in another part of Helmand province, details of which cannot be reported for security reasons.

In interviews, the Prince said he was not missing the luxuries of home and was enjoying "just mucking in as one of the lads", adding: "It's very nice to be a normal person for once, I think this is about as normal as I'm ever going to get."



Watch Prince Harry on the frontline -

Footage courtesy of PA



Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory