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Prince Harry: My withdrawal is a 'shame'

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  • Prince Harry back in Britain after serving with army in Afghanistan
  • Prince Charles said he was "enormously proud" of his son
  • Decision was made to pull prince from Afghanistan amid fears for safety
  • Breaking of a news embargo put prince at risk, UK military said
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Calling his unexpected withdrawal from Afghanistan a "shame," Prince Harry expressed his disappointment Saturday at being sent home after the media's disclosure of his deployment.

"I didn't see it coming, obviously it's a shame," the 23-year-old said. " I am so disappointed, I thought I could see it through to the end and come back with our guys and the colonel himself."

He added, "I suppose I think deep down inside it would be quite nice to have a bath ... but, no, I'd like to still be out there with the guys ... I would love to go back out. I want to go out very very soon."

Harry was welcomed home by his father and brother Saturday, a day after he was quickly withdrawn from deployment.

His father -- Prince Charles -- and his brother -- Prince William -- were waiting for Harry at the Royal Air Force's Brize Norton base near Oxford, England.

Prince Harry walked off an RAF transport plane, along with several dozen other British soldiers, at 11:45 a.m. Saturday.

Charles told reporters he was "enormously proud" of Harry and said he now understood what the families and loved ones of soldiers endured when they were serving abroad. Video Watch as Harry arrives in UK »

He said: "As you can imagine it's obviously a great relief as far as I'm concerned to see him home in one piece."

The prince had been deployed in Afghanistan since December. Major news outlets had agreed to keep the information secret for security reasons, but a Web site broke the news blackout Thursday.

That prompted the British military to withdraw the prince for security reasons four weeks before the end of his 14-week deployment.

On Saturday, Harry said he was "surprised by the way the British media kept to their side of the bargain and ... I am very grateful to that."

He added, "At the same time it doesn't surprise me that once again it came down to media, foreign media, that's once again spilled the beans." Video Watch Prince Harry express his disappointment »

Asked if he had mixed feelings about Harry's premature return, Charles replied: "Yes." He went on: "I feel particular frustration that he was removed unexpectedly early because apart from anything else, he had been looking forward to coming back with the rest of his regiment.

"As you can imagine it's obviously a great relief as far as I'm concerned to see him home in one piece.

"It's been quite difficult also having to keep quiet about the fact he was serving in that part of the world.

"People kept saying to me 'you must be so frustrated about Harry not being able to serve abroad.'"

Charles said he now understood "what it's like for so many families with loved ones serving abroad."

The British Ministry of Defence had earlier described as "regrettable" the decision of "elements of the foreign media" to reveal Prince Harry's service in Afghanistan.

Because of the unique circumstances of the deployment, CNN, as well as other news organizations, chose to honor an embargo requested by the military.

The 23-year-old prince holds the rank of cornet -- equivalent to a second lieutenant -- and served in Afghanistan as a forward air controller with a group called Joint Tactical Air Control, or JTAC.

"At the end of the day I like to sort of be a normal person, and for once I think this is about as normal as I'm ever going to get," he said in a interview while he was there. "As far as I'm concerned, I'm out here as a normal JTAC on the ground and not as Prince Harry."

His duties included calling in airstrikes and air support when necessary, guaranteeing the accuracy of bombing on the ground and guarding against incidents of friendly fire.

Prince Harry is the younger son of Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, and the late Princess Diana, who died in a Paris car crash in 1997.

Last year, the military ruled he could not be sent to Iraq because publicity about the deployment could put him and his unit at risk.

Shortly after the news of the prince's deployment broke, several Islamist Web sites posted messages alerting their "brethren" in Afghanistan to be on the lookout for the royal soldier.

Several members of the British royal family saw combat in the past century. Prince Harry's grandfather, Prince Phillip, served aboard warships in World War II; his great-grandfather -- the future King George VI -- took part in the World War I naval battle of Jutland; and Prince Andrew, Prince Harry's uncle, flew Royal Navy helicopters during Britain's 1982 war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands.

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Prince Harry's brother, Prince William, is also an army officer. But as second in line for the throne, he is specifically barred from combat.

The last sitting British monarch to lead troops in battle was George II, who defeated a French force at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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