LONDON -- Prince Andrew says he was 'very frightened' when British ships were blown up in the Falklands war -- but still risked his life to lure deadly Argentine missiles away from the Royal Navy fleet.
Andrew, 22, after Prince Charles the next in line to the British throne, was hailed as a hero who saved lives by survivors of one sunken ship who were plucked from the icy South Atlantic waters by the prince's helicopter.
'I was very frightened then,' said Andrew, recalling how he watched a British warship blowing up and then rescuing some of the crewmen. 'It was something I shall never, ever forget. It was quite horrific.'
Andrew, interviewed for the first time since the conflict began by British reporters in the Falklands, rushed to a telephone during his first visit to the capital of Stanley for a 15-minute call to his mother, Queen Elizabeth II.
'I asked to be put through to Buckingham Palace, and the line was so clear it was like speaking to London from Edinburgh,' he said. 'My mother was in. It was about the right time in the evening.
'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 three to four hours a day piloting his Royal Navy Sea King helicopter behind the HMS Invincible to serve as a decoy to Exocet missiles -- Argentina's deadliest weapon in the Falklands war.
He said his 'most frightening moment of the war' was seeing 'a 4.5 shell come quite close to us. I saw my ship. Invincible, firing her missiles. Normally I would say it was spectacular, but at the time it was very frightening.'
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.
'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.'