Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Prince Harry hails wounded soldiers after Everest bid

Private Jaco Van Gass and Captain Martin Hewitt are joined by Prince Harry while training on Sizewell Beach. Photo: Twofour / ROBERT LEVERITT

Prince Harry has described five wounded soldiers who attempted to climb to the peak of Mount Everest as "extraordinary".

The young royal, who is patron of the charity Walking With The Wounded (WWTW), trained with the team in the UK and supported them in their bid to conquer one of the world's toughest challenges.

Private Jaco Van Gass and Doctor Francis Atkinson are joined by Prince Harry while training on Sizewell Beach. Credit: Twofour / ROBERT LEVERITT

A new documentary, Harry's Mountain Heroes, sees the men struggle with altitude, extreme temperatures, deadly avalanches, terrifying crossings and night climbs on their mission to make it to the 8,848 metre peak.

Speaking at the Atlantic Council Awards Dinner in Washington, Harry paid tribute to the team but revealed they had been unsuccessful in their attempt.

Sadly, I have to be the first to say they have been frustrated from reaching the summit by the unusually warm weather, which brings particularly dangerous conditions.

However, the mere fact they are up there on that fearsome peak, I find totally amazing.

Ladies and gentlemen, these people - ours and yours - are extraordinary.

The 90-minute documentary also tells the story of the journey the five soldiers - Private Jaco van Gass, Private Karl Hinett, Captain Martin Hewitt, Captain David Wiseman and Doctor Francis Atkinson - have been on since being wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The team worked closely with Walking With The Wounded, a UK based charity which funds the re-training and re-education of wounded servicemen and women. They stage extreme expeditions to illustrate the determination and courage of the injured and to raise funds to help provide rehabilitation programmes.

Captain Martin Hewitt ice climbing on the Khumbu Glacier. Credit: Twofour / Petter Nyquist

Last year Harry joined four wounded soldiers for part of their expedition to walk to the North Pole. He has described being a patron to the charity as an "opportunity that I could never turn down".

Speaking at the launch of the Everest expedition he said:

To give yourself a challenge of such magnitude as climbing Everest is remarkable, and what these guys are proving is no matter what your injury, no matter whether you're military or civilian, you can overcome all sorts of illness, mental or physical.

The importance to me of these guys and what they're doing and the fact that I'm able to support them by being their patron is huge, it's an opportunity that I could never turn down.

We meet the team who tackled Mount Everest:

Captain David Wiseman, Private Jaco Van Gass, Captain Martin Hewitt, Private Karl Hinett and Doctor Francis Atkinson. Credit: Twofour / Petter Nyquist

Captain Martin Hewitt, Expedition Manager of the Everest Team:

  • Year of birth: 1980
  • Hometown: Wilmslow, Cheshire
  • Military background: Served eight years as a commissioned officer with the Parachute Regiment. In 2007 he received two gun-shots through the right shoulder rendering his right arm paralysed.
  • Luxury item: Whiskey
  • Why did you want to take part?: “I believe what WWTW is doing to assist our injured retrainis desperately needed and a great cause. I hope that through this expedition we can demonstrate to our public how determined our injured soldiers are to overcome their horrific injuries and move on with life post service.”

Private Jaco van Gass:

  • Year of birth: 1986
  • Hometown: Middelburg, South Africa
  • Military background: Joined the Parachute Regiment in February 2007 and completed two tours to Afghanistan in 2008 and 2009. He was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade which caused the loss of his left arm. He also suffered a collapsed lung, punctured internal organs, loss of muscle and tissue from the upper left thigh, multiple shrapnel wounds and a fractured knee, fibula and tibia.
  • Luxury item: iPad loaded with music, books and movies.
  • Why did you want to take part?: “In order to raise the profile of the wounded. To prove anything is possible if you put your mind to it. To prove that life goes on post injury. To adapt, improvise and overcome, you have to get back up. To inspire other wounded men and women.”

Private Karl Hinett:

  • Year of birth: 1987
  • Hometown: Tipton, West Midlands
  • Military background: He joined the army at the age of 17. After six months training at the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick he left with the ‘Best Recruit’ award and joined The Staffordshire Regiment. He was injured whilst serving in Basra, Iraq in September 2005 when he was involved in a serious attack on his Warrior tank and received a direct hit from a petrol bomb. As a result, Karl received 37% burns to his hands, legs, arms and face.
  • Luxury item: iPod and a decent bottle of shampoo
  • Why did you want to take part?: “I believed I could help encourage and motivate others who have been injured. To show that after a life changing injury, life hasn’t ended but is beginning."
The team camp at Lobuche which lies close to the Khumbu Glacier. Credit: Twofour / Petter Nyquist

Captain David Wiseman:

  • Year of birth: 1982
  • Hometown: Tadcaster, North Yorkshire
  • Military background: In December 2006, he was commissioned from the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, into the 1st Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment. He completed an operational tour of Iraq as a Platoon Commander over the winter of 2008/2009. In 2009, he was attached to the 2nd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment and was deployed to Afghanistan. In November 2009 he sustained a gunshot wound to the chest in a firefight with the Taliban.
  • Luxury item: iPhone packed with lots of games and photos of his family.
  • Why did you want to take part?: “I have so many friends who have been wounded and have not been anywhere near as lucky as me in terms of levels of recovery. I hope that my actions will help the guys who have not been so fortunate. I know many young soldiers who have no qualifications to fall back on when they have to leave the army through injury, so I understand the importance of this charity. “

Doctor Francis Atkinson:

  • Year of birth: 1981
  • Hometown: Malmesbury, Wiltshire
  • Military background: He was commissioned in 2003 as a Medical Cadet. In May 2010 he joined the Medical Regiment and his first tour of Afghanistan was in September 2010 working as a doctor in a forward operating base. He suffered a gunshot wound to his right upper arm, causing significant nerve damage. As a result, his right hand still does not function properly.
  • Luxury item: Cashmere beanie
  • Why did you want to take part?: “As a doctor in Afghanistan I dealt with injured soldiers and witnessed the severity of their injuries first hand. When I became injured my usual role was reversed and it revealed to me just how life changing some of these injuries can be. Compared to many soldiers my injuries were very minor, but they have still resulted in me being unable to work for a year. I am fortunate enough to have qualifications I can fall back on if my current disability becomes permanent. Unfortunately for most soldiers this is not the case and this is where WWTW helps out.
Private Karl Hinett climbing up Lobuche. Credit: Twofour / Petter Nyquist