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Prince Andrew used his helicopter to decoy deadly Exocet...

LONDON -- Prince Andrew used his helicopter to decoy deadly Exocet missiles fired from Argentine war jets and was hailed a hero for rescuing British sailors from the sinking Atlantic Conveyor, reports from the Falklands Islands said Friday.

'I was very frightened then,' Andrew recalled of the Atlantic Conveyor attack.

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'It was something I shall never, ever forget. It was quite horrific.'

Andrew, 22, and next in line to the throne after Prince Charles, also called his mother Queen Elizabeth II when he landed in Stanley.

'I asked to be put through to Buckingham Palace, and the line was so clear it was like speaking to London from Edinburgh. My mother was in. It was about the right time in the evening,' he said.

'She was quite surprised to hear from me. She asked to pass on how proud she was of everyone, and to say how marvellously all the troops had done.'

Andrew said he flew his Sea King helicopter three or four hours a day behind the HMS Invincible to serve as a decoy to Exocet missiles - Argentina's deadliest weapon.

He recalled the aftermath of the Exocet sinking of the HMS Sheffield and Atlantic Conveyor.

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'For the first 10 minutes after the Sheffield, I think when one really didn't know which way to turn or what to do. I know where I was and I was very frightened then.

'I was an Exocet decoy (for the Invincible) when the Sheffield was hit.

'The moment that really sticks in my mind is Atlantic Conveyor, which I saw hit, and the aftermath of that, having been in the rescue operaton. It was something I shall never, ever forget. It was quite horrific.

'At the same time, I saw a 4.5 shell come quite close to us. I saw my ship. Invincible, firing her missiles. Normally I wouldsay it was spectacular, but at the time it was very frightening.

'It was my most frightening moment of the war.'

Andrew said he was also frightened when he and other were ordered to put on anti-flash gear and lay on the deck of the Invincible, 'the most lonely feeling in the world.'

Andrew's helicopter Squardon 820 rescued 26 shipmates from the Atlantic Conveyor.

'They were suffering from hypothermia,' said Michael Retford, a rescued seaman, referring to sailors in an overcrowded life boat.

'I was one of the last to be winched up. When I got inside the helicopter, one of my pals pointed to the co-pilot and said it was Prince Andrew.

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'He was very cool, just like the rest of the helicopter crew. He and the rest of the crew did a great job. It would be nice if I could buy them a pint to say thanks one day.'

Andrew, meanwhile, praised his fellow pilots -- 'I dare say this squadron is the greatest squadron' -- and said his worry now was answering the many letters he received from home who showed so much 'support and faith in what we've done down here.'

'I say thank you to everybody who's written to me over the past, whatever it is... I've forgotten how long it is now.'

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