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‘I flew Apache helicopters with Prince Harry – now I’m a financial adviser’

henry anderson
Henry Anderson, 41, credits his success in the world of finance to the skills he learned in the cockpit - Tony Buckingham

Civvy Street is a new series following the lives of Armed Forces veterans and finding out what happened next. If you’d like to be featured contact noah.eastwood@telegraph.co.uk

“Nobody joins the forces for a payslip,” says Henry Anderson, a retired major who left the Army last year after almost two decades. “There has to be a more important motivational reason.”

For him, as well as several hundred other bright-eyed recruits entering Sandhurst late in the summer of 2004, the motivation for signing up was watching the 9/11 terror attacks in Manhattan unfold on television while at university.

“That definitely was, for me and my generation, a trigger for us wanting to join the forces. For my peer group that was why they were there. No one ends up at Sandhurst by accident. If that had not happened, I might not have ended up in the Armed Forces,” he explains.

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The alternatives were also far from appealing, he says. Leaving university aged 22, Anderson was uninspired by the prospect of a corporate job working in an office.

“I knew almost nothing about the Armed Forces. I just knew it was really exciting.”

henry anderson
Henry flew Apache helicopters in Afghanistan after pursuing his boyhood dream to become a pilot

Now 41 and freshly back in civilian life, Anderson is a financial adviser, and credits his success to the skills he learnt in the cockpit of an Apache attack helicopter fighting the Taliban in the deserts of Afghanistan.

“I look after a whole variety of clients – city professionals, business owners, everyone really.

“When I get to someone’s house or workplace, in the same way as when I was in an Apache in Afghanistan and I need to help someone get home that day, I know they will be better off after seeing me.”

‘I did 200 networking calls to find the right job’

Anderson says he’s struggled to find this kind of job satisfaction, even after landing a top job as a management consultant at Deloitte, where he worked for eight months after leaving the Army.

“Deloitte is an amazing company, but I didn’t find it personally rewarding – it was all about helping organisations. The bit I craved, and this goes back to being a squadron commander, is helping people.

“I did a huge amount of research. I had about 200 networking calls. The career I was most excited by is financial advice. UK tax is so complex, everyone you meet can be better off.

“To other people it looks quite confusing. My wife can’t understand why I am not flying an airline, but I wouldn’t find that as professionally satisfying.”

When Anderson completed officer training, Britain was embroiled in the global war on terrorism and had boots on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was a time when officers moved rapidly from training at home to the frontlines of conflict abroad.

After a detachment in Iraq with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, a tank regiment, he returned home and qualified to pilot the Westland Lynx helicopter. “I spent years becoming a pilot and that was a childhood dream of mine.”

‘Prince Harry was one of the best’

Anderson then went on to the Apache, supporting rescue operations to extract casualties from battle and bring them back to base. “In an Apache I was basically trying to fight off the Taliban, who were trying to stop that happening,” he says.

“The reality of somewhere like Afghanistan is complete chaos. The stakes are so high, if you get this wrong a colleague could lose his life. You’ve got to make great decisions under pressure. Nothing is ever going to be as stressful or as high stakes as that environment.”

Prince Harry, who went through Sandhurst the year after him, was a colleague of Anderson in Afghanistan. The two carried out almost identical roles and Anderson would later command the squadron in which Harry served.

prince harry
‘Prince Harry was a normal colleague – we'd have lunch and chats together’ - John Stillwell/WPA Pool/Getty Images

“I would see him over lunch on a normal day. He was a normal colleague. I would sit down for lunch. He might be sitting there and we would just have normal chats,” he says.

“We would have normal conversations about work and what was going on. That is what was nice about it. He was very well regarded. He was known for being a very good pilot and just getting stuck in with it.”

He says that the now-iconic footage of the young prince abruptly ending an interview in Afghanistan to run to his helicopter exemplified the job.

“That is literally what I did in Afghanistan. That wasn’t staged, it was definitely an accurate depiction of what the job is like. Minutes later you are in flight and you are going out to help a colleague.

“If you ask any soldier what they are motivated by, it’s almost always about helping the person next to them.”

In the years after his service in Afghanistan, Anderson took on a number of different roles, including organising the training of Ukrainian forces as part of Operation Orbital in the wake of the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

“For an army officer you change roles every two years. So I’ve had lots of jobs. I learned new things. That doesn’t change as you get more senior. That is probably why I ended up serving much longer than I ever expected to.

“I’ve experienced imposter syndrome many times before. That Sunday night when you are driving to a new role, you don’t know who you are going to work with – they are going to be high-quality people, but that can be stressful.”

Henry during his first visit to Iraq with the Scots Dragoon Guards
Henry’s first experience of Iraq came when he was deployed there with the Scots Dragoon Guards

‘The Army struggles to recruit, but it is still world class’

Anderson now dedicates some of his time to helping other ex-servicemen and women make the transition out of the Armed Forces and back into civilian life.

He says it is a transition people should not, on paper, struggle to make, given the sought-after skills and training that military life can give people.

The British Army is having difficulties now with equipment and recruiting, but there are still some things [about it] that are world class.

“What I have noticed is I get a massive buzz out of helping other people through the journey. I get a phone call every week. I talk to them about imposter syndrome, helping them realise it is normal, helping them realise it will quickly pass [and] how to find a sector that they are going to find rewarding.

“They’ll all have dozens of skills and there will be hundreds of companies that need those skills. The people in the Armed Forces don’t know that the demand is there,” he adds.