Wounded soldier Duncan Slater (second, from right) tells TV Times magazine about his expedition to the South Pole with Prince Harry for ITV’s Harry’s South Pole Heroes (Sunday, March 16), and how he made history in the process…
How did it feel to be doing something like this with Prince Harry?
“When you get to Antarctica you kind of forget it all. You can’t treat people any differently down there, not that Harry would expect you to treat him differently. He just arrived, got to know everyone as best he could and got on with the task in hand and it’s great that he did that.”
As well as Prince Harry, actors Dominic West (The Wire, The Hour) and Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood) were also on the expedition with teams from Britain, the Commonwealth, and America all racing to reach the pole. How would you describe the experience?
“I was sat in Cape Town, where we were based before flying out to Antarctica, with Dominic, Alex and Harry, thinking, ‘This is a bit weird!'”
How did Prince Harry help the team?
“He’s been in the military and he was spot on in his sense of humour, his teamwork and he was big and strong. That was good, because you can’t be too serious down there, it would just get you down.”
You went to Buckingham Palace to meet The Queen and Prince Phillip, too…
“She’s a lovely lady and wished us luck!”
We heard you also got to play cricket with Prince Harry in Antarctica, as well…
“It was no mean feat setting up a game, but they did it. They wrapped an orange up in some tape to use as the ball, made a bat, improvised some stumps and away we went.”
How did you prepare for the trip?
“The training was tough because I’d not skied before and it’s quite hard to ski on prosthetic limbs. Luckily we had guides there who’d give us feedback and show us easier ways of doing things, but it was hard for them as well because not a lot of them had worked with people with disabilities before.”
How did you cope with the extreme cold?
“It was quite miserable to be honest with you. But it was good from the point of view you could see how the stumps and prosthetics were going to react in the cold and I then knew that if I didn’t insulate them properly my stumps would freeze.”
Was it all as tough as you expected?
“It was also colder than we had expected. I was quite lucky because I didn’t suffer from frostbite, but some of the guys did. I mean Kate Philp [the only British female team member who had her left leg amputated below the knee after being injured serving in Afghanistan in 2008], suffered frostbite on her thumb and her ear, which wasn’t ideal.”
Were there any particularly difficult days?
“The wind one day was pretty strong and it reached -48degC, which is pretty chilly! We were cold all day; there was nothing you could do to keep warm, and you’ve just got to keep plodding on.”
After more than three weeks of pulling 11-stone sleds, you finally made it and reached your goal to become the first double amputee in history to ski to the South Pole.
“Yes! We didn’t know there would be champagne. I only got a sip as it was passed around lots of people.”