IT WAS a small sacrifice that went some way to showing the measure of the man he has become - but was nothing in comparison to the sacrifice of the many he came to remember.
Prince Harry gave up his seat in a Spitfire to ensure a veteran and two wounded servicemen could take part in the biggest gathering of Battle of Britain aircraft since the Second World War to mark the aerial conflict’s 75th anniversary.
Around 40 Spitfires, Hurricanes and Bristol Blenheim bombers flew in formation from Goodwood Aerodrome in West Sussex before dispersing across wartime airfields over the South of England.
The Prince, who left the Armed Forces after a ten-year military career in May, watched as the Spitfire took off and a group of schoolchildren sang Happy Birthday to him in recognition of his 31st birthday.
A royal spokesman said Harry was “incredibly honoured” to be part of the event on his birthday.
He had been due to have a seat in one of four two-seater Spitfires but when one of the vintage aircraft developed mechanical problems, he decided to step aside to ensure the event’s special guests would still get to fly.
His spokesman said he wanted to make sure that 95-year-old Tom Neil, an ex-wing commander and Battle of Britain Hurricane and Spitfire pilot, would still be able to take part.
And he wanted to ensure that a former para and an RAF corporal who won places on a Spitfire scholarship training programme were also still able to take part in the display.
Nathan Forster, a former private in the Parachute Regiment, from South Shields, Tyne and Wear, suffered severe damage to his left leg in an IED blast while on patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2011.
And Corporal Alan Robinson, an RAF aircraft technician, from Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, lost a leg in a motorbike accident.
The scholarship was established by the Boultbee Flight Academy and is supported by the Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry’s Endeavour Fund - which donates money and offers practical help to sporting and adventure challenges for wounded ex-service personnel.
Prince Harry’s association with wounded soldiers goes further - in 2014 he founded the Invictus Games, an international sporting event for wounded, injured and sick servicemen.
The Prince, who was sporting a rugged ginger beard, took the chance to wish Mr Forster well as he took the Prince’s seat in the Spitfire PV202. After waving him off, Harry took a photograph of the plane on his mobile phone before it manoeuvred on to the grass runway to take its place in the formation.
Harry had previously flown in a Spitfire in August last year, when he met pilots in training for today’s event.
The display, which has been delayed by two hours because of poor weather, was a tribute to the Second World War pilots famously dubbed “The Few” by wartime prime minister Winston Churchill for their efforts defeating the Luftwaffe.
During the summer and autumn of 1940, 544 personnel from Fighter Command died as the RAF fought in the skies above southern England to force back the threat of any invasion by Hitler.