Prince Harry's Hythe Ranges visit fuels frontline combat rumours
PRINCE Harry made a secret two-day visit to the Hythe Ranges for training this week, fuelling rumours he is soon to return to frontline combat.
The doughty royal stayed over at Shorncliffe Barracks, it is understood, and even tucked into burgers and sausages despite the rain at a barbecue in the St Martin's Plain camp on Monday night.
A well-placed source said: "It was a lovely evening. The Prince was such a nice bloke – he's just one of the lads."
Accompanied by burly minders, the prince was bussed to the ranges on Monday with a group of soldiers and it is understood he was to complete two days' live firing.
In keeping with such visits, the MoD refused to confirm or deny that the prince was there, saying: "We don't comment on the movements of individual soldiers."
But the unheralded visit will inevitably lead to speculation the prince is to return to battle in the near future.
His Royal Highness, who served in Afghanistan in 2008 and qualified as an Apache helicopter pilot this year, said in a US television interview: "I've been there once. I've served my country.
"I enjoyed it because I was with my friends.
"And, you know, everyone has a part to play.
"All these people telling these stories of, 'Oh, he's been trained as Apache pilot, he's never going to see active service, he's never going to get to the front line' – these people live in a ridiculous world to even think that."
Although the prince was flanked by bodyguards and the trip was veiled in secrecy, it is understood he was using his time in Hythe to meet criteria for live firing, "like everyone else", as all troops must before they are sent to the front line.
Several years ago, Harry's brother William caused a stir by queuing up in Tesco at Cheriton to pay for snacks while on a training exercise in the area.
An Army source said that Hythe was mainly used for routine training and that the nearby Lydd Ranges were "basically a pre-deployment camp".
In the television interview, Harry said: "We can't, especially in our Army nowadays, train people and then not put them into the position that they need, the role they need to play.
"For me, personally, as I said, I want to serve my country. I've done it once, and I'm still in the Army.
"I feel as though I should get the opportunity to do it again."