Prince Harry paid an emotional tribute to his fallen “friends” as he returned to Afghanistan to lead a remembrance service.
Appearing on behalf of the Queen, the 30-year-old laid a personal wreath at Kandahar airfield inscribed with the handwritten note: “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. They will never be forgotten. Harry.”
Earlier this year, three British troops from Prince Harry’s former Army unit were killed in the UK’s worst helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
Today, troops in Kandahar and Kabul paused in silent vigil to the more than 450 British servicemen to have died fighting the Taliban during the UK’s 13-year military presence in the country.
The final British troops are due to be pulled out of Afghanistan by the end of the year as operations in the country wind down.
A royal spokesman said: “Prince Harry was honoured to be able to attend the last remembrance service in southern Afghanistan, especially given his personal experience of operational service.
“He felt it important to mark this significant milestone, remembering all those who have lost their lives during the campaign.”
Harry had previously served in Afghanistan from late 2007 to 2008 and from 2012 until early 2013, although his maiden deployment had to be cut short after a foreign publication broke a strict media blackout on details of his whereabouts.
Earlier this year, it was confirmed that Captain Thomas Clarke, Warrant Officer Spencer Faulkner and Corporal James Walters - who served with the Army Air Corps based at RAF Odiham in Hampshire - were among five killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. They belonged to the regiment with which Prince Harry was an Apache helicopter commander.
During his brief visit today, the prince met with British servicemen and women from 31 squadron of Norfolk-based RAF Marham.
He also received a briefing on how the Tornado aircraft had provided close air support to Afghan operations over the last few months.
Reflecting upon the final Remembrance Sunday ceremony in southern Afghanistan, Brigadier Darrell Amison said: “Today, members of the Armed Forces and our civilian counterparts in Kandahar joined the nation in honouring the lives and sacrifice of the fallen in Afghanistan, along with those who have lost their lives and been injured in the line of duty during the First World War and in conflicts since.
“We will forever be in debt to all those who made the ultimate sacrifice. We will never forget their extraordinary courage and dedication, and our thoughts will always remain with the families and friends of those we have lost.
“The final Remembrance Sunday ceremony in southern Afghanistan has significant poignancy as we pay tribute to the 453 men and women who have given their lives since 2001, along with the many hundreds who have suffered life-changing injuries.
“We are incredibly proud of what they have achieved. Thanks to their sacrifice, Afghanistan is a better country and we walk in safer streets at home in the UK. We will remember them.”
The prince has taken on a desk role with the military since he returned from Afghanistan in January last year.