Yards from a booby-trap bomb ... how Prince Harry kept his cool

Last updated at 23:16 29 February 2008

Harry experienced at first hand the deadly danger of roadside bombs planted by the Taliban.

His convoy of light tanks came within yards of a buried shell, linked to a pressure-plate to trigger an explosion when a vehicle passed by. Similar booby-trap bombs have killed more than a dozen British servicemen in Helmand Province in recent months.

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Riding shotgun: The convoy of tanks came within yards of a buried shell

On this occasion, good drills prevented a tragedy. The convoy stopped short of a frequently-used "pinch point" - a bridge over a concrete gully cutting across a dry river bed, or wadi - for engineers to dismount and scan the ground ahead with mine-detecting equipment.

The Soviet-era anti-tank shell was found buried in gravel in the gully, just where the squadron was about to cross, and was powerful enough to kill those inside any vehicle which was blasted by it.

The find started a complex all-day operation, as C Squadron of the Household Cavalry sealed off a nearby populated area, searched a series of compounds and pinpointed a suspected firing point in a house.

As a Forward Air Controller, Harry played a key role. He speeded up the operation by several hours by persuading senior commanders over the radio to allow a helicopter carrying a specialist Gurkha bomb disposal team to land far nearer to the scene than planned.

"It's rare when you actually manage to persuade Brigade to change their minds," Harry said with a smile as the helicopter arrived overhead. The team blew up the shell.

The prince also used video surveillance footage from a small overhead drone to pick out an alternative route, allowing part of the convoy to continue on its way.

His troop leader, Captain Dickon Leigh-Wood later said his grasp of the situation had saved hours. Harry said it was the 15th such device the team had dealt with.

He added: "It proves the system does work, the kit that we've got essentially does work and the guys on the ground are pretty hot s**t when it comes to drills, once you've been doing them for months and months."

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