South Pole trek soldiers hail Prince Harry

Prince Harry has reached the South Pole after a three-week trek. Photo / AP
Prince Harry has reached the South Pole after a three-week trek. Photo / AP

Prince Harry has been praised by his brave band of wounded soldiers as they received a heroes' welcome after returning from a "crazy" South Pole adventure.

The injured British service personnel who formed the Walking With The Wounded charity expedition, which had included two Australians, arrived at Heathrow after catching a flight from Cape Town in South Africa to spend Christmas at home.

They faced such extreme weather conditions during their 322km odyssey that organisers had to call off the competitive element of the adventure.

But working as one unit, the British team and squads from Australia, Canada and the US made it to their Antarctic goal together on December 13.

In total, 12 injured servicemen and women who have overcome life-changing injuries took part, with Harry serving as Team UK's patron.

Corporal Seamus Donaghue from Brisbane and Private Heath Jamieson from Sydney took part under the banner of Aussie partner charity Soldier On.

Amputee Major Kate Philp, 35, from Worcestershire, lost her leg below the knee while serving in Afghanistan in November 2008.

The only female member of Team UK hailed Harry, who returned to Britain separately, for being "fantastic from beginning to end".

"Especially considering he hadn't had as many training opportunities because he is so busy, he was a really strong, fit individual.

"Personally speaking, there were a couple of days where I was struggling and he was there every time, at rest breaks, helping me out, buoying me up and pulling me on.

"He was exactly what you would expect from a military man - no airs or graces, he just mucked in with everyone else."

Sergeant Duncan Slater, 34, became the first double amputee to reach the South Pole during the trip.

He lost both his legs after the vehicle he was travelling in was hit by an IED in the Babaji area of Afghanistan in July 2009.

The Team UK member said: "It was pretty crazy - you couldn't have written it.

"It was a big disappointment when the race was called off but some of the guys were really struggling, some had frostbite, so I can see why they did it."

Ed Parker, co-founder of Walking With The Wounded and expedition director, said: "It was far harder than we were expecting."

Asked what the wounded soldiers gained from the experience, he said: "I think for them it proves they can do just about anything."

Aiming to trek around 15km to 20km a day, the teams endured temperatures as low as minus 45C and 80km/h winds as they pulled their 70kg sleds, known as pulks, towards the southernmost point on the globe.

- AAP

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