Prince Harry's 'Living Legend' Award Sparks Military Backlash

Prince Harry’s ‘Living Legend’ Award Sparks Military Backlash

Prince Harry’s induction into the cohort of “Living Legends of Aviation” has sparked backlash from high-ranking former members of the military in Britain, one of whom labeled the development as “pathetic.”

On January 10, it was announced that Harry would join notable aviators such as former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, movie star Tom Cruise and billionaire Elon Musk, as one of the U.S. organization’s “legends,” who are considered to have made “significant contributions to aviation” and aerospace.

Harry trained as an Apache helicopter pilot following his first tour of Afghanistan with the Blues and Royals regiment. In 2012, after his training, the prince was redeployed to Afghanistan as a member of the Army Air Corps, where he served a 20-week deployment as a helicopter co-pilot and gunner.

The prince’s army career was referenced in detail in his 2023 memoir, Spare, describing for readers the challenges he faced on active duty as well as from the increased attention owing to his royal background.

Main image, Prince Harry is seen in Germany on September 15, 2023. Inset, the prince is photographed aboard an Apache helicopter during his second tour of duty in Afghanistan on December 12, 2012. Harry’s induction as one of the “Living Legends of Aviation” by a U.S. based group has been criticized.
Lukas Schulze/Getty Images for Invictus Games Düsseldorf 2023/John Stillwell – WPA Pool/Getty Images
One element of his memoir that earned Harry backlash from a number of veterans was the inclusion that he had killed 25 Taliban fighters in combat.

“It wasn’t a number that gave me any satisfaction,” he wrote. “But neither was it a number that made me feel ashamed.”

Since leaving the monarchy in 2020 with Meghan Markle, Harry has faced criticism on a number of occasions for interviews, media projects and awards recognitions.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, the former head of the Royal Navy, Admiral Lord West, said that, in his opinion, the prince had done little to earn his latest accolade.

“He is not a living legend of aviation. To suggest he is, is pathetic,” he said. “It makes the whole thing seem a bit of a nonsense if they’re willing to pick someone like Prince Harry.

“He is not a living legend. There are lots of people who deserve to be called this but not Prince Harry. I find it extraordinary he has been picked. He didn’t carry off any great exciting feat of amazing flying skill while flying for the army. They’re just trying to get publicity. They know it will cause a stir. I find the whole thing really rather pathetic.”

Retired army colonel Richard Kemp is quoted by The Sun as saying there were more deserving military servicemen and women who have not received such acknowledgment.

“I can think of many people who did pretty extraordinary things while serving in the British and American armed forces who would be much more deserving of an award like this,” he said. “It is obviously because of who he is—not what he did. An Apache is crewed by two people—a pilot and a gunner. Harry was a gunner. He was number two in the aircraft.”

Speaking of these criticisms, royal expert Richard Fitzwilliams told Newsweek that it’s unsurprising Harry’s recognition by the “Living Legends of Aviation” has been met with skepticism.

“When you are the object of mockery, as the Sussexes recently have been, it is surely wise to choose the awards you are offered with care,” he said.

Prince Harry is photographed in an Apache helicopter during his deployment to Afghanistan on December 12, 2012. The prince served a 20-week deployment as a helicopter co-pilot and gunner.
“The soubriquet ‘living legend’ obviously would apply to famous aviators, those with important links to the space program and entrepreneurs and innovators who have achieved remarkable feats in this field,” he said. “Harry’s founding of the Invictus Games is certainly notable. However his stint as an Apache pilot during his second tour of duty in Afghanistan…is certainly not enough to make him a ‘legend.'”

“The criteria include ‘pilots who have become celebrities,'” he explained. “The cap fits on that one, but where is the ‘extroadinary accomplishment in aviation’ which is supposedly required?

“There will therefore be a good deal of laughter when this is mentioned in the future. Veterans are right to be skeptical,” he concluded. “They are obviously after a well-known name to give publicity to the awards. Their choice of Harry is not an appropriate one.”

Newsweek approached representatives of Prince Harry via email for comment.

As a member of the “legends” cohort, the organization’s website states that Harry will be expected to be “actively involved in the nomination and selection process” for future inductees and awards winners.

Each year, an annual awards ceremony is staged to celebrate these notable figures in the world of aviation. The 21st annual awards ceremony will be held on January 19 in Los Angeles. Whether Harry will attend or not has not yet been confirmed.

James Crawford-Smith is Newsweek’s royal reporter, based in London. You can find him on X (formerly Twitter) at @jrcrawfordsmith and read his stories on Newsweek’s The Royals Facebook page.

Do you have a question about King Charles III, William and Kate, Meghan and Harry, or their family that you would like our experienced royal correspondents to answer? Email We’d love to hear from you.

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