Prince Edward has made a morale boosting visit to battle weary troops who deployed to Afghanistan from Northern Ireland.
The Earl of Wessex spent two days with the 2nd Battalion The Rifles at a forward operating base in Sangin, Helmand Province.
News of the Prince’s visit, which took place last week, was kept top secret until after he had flown out of the war torn country.
The 2 Rifles battle group has spent five arduous months at the forefront of the fight against the Taliban and has lost 12 men since deploying from barracks at Ballykinler in Co Down.
It is understood Prince Edward, who is Royal Colonel of the 2nd battalion The Rifles, was escorted through the new ‘government zone’ and met the Sangin district governor Fazil Haq.
He said he hoped the troops would have a “painless and productive” last few weeks on operations.
Commanding Officer of the 2 Rifles battle group, Lieutenant Colonel Rob Thomson, described the royal visit as a “real honour”.
“Our Royal Colonel has been in the closest support throughout our time in Sangin and we are very grateful,” he said.
“It has been a real boost to the Riflemen whose courage and resolve in the face of the most challenging circumstances has been exemplary.”
Among the latest fatalities from the 2nd battalion The Rifles was Captain Mark Hale whose funeral was held in Hillsborough almost a fortnight ago.