23 SEPTEMBER 2003
Prince Harry has been making some furry friends down under during the tour of Australia which kicks off his gap year. The young royal was greeted by an echidna and a wallaby as he started his three-month visit with a trip to Sydney's Taronga Zoo.
And it seems the Prince may be taking an extra year off before beginning his training as a military officer at Sandhurst. The 19-year-old has sailed through the first stage of his assessment for the institution, but his father feels that he should wait a little longer before starting his career.
"Even next year he will still be quite young to start as a cadet officer and his father and others feel that he could benefit from broadening his experiences by taking an additional year off," said one of Prince Charles' senior aides.
There is also concern that he would be younger than most of the other recruits if he were to start in 2004. Sandhurst does accept cadets as young as 18, but most candidates are over 21 and the average age is 23.
It has not yet been decided how the Prince might spend the extra year, though a "structured programme" of activities has been planned for the next 12 months. The teenager is expected to play polo for Young England in the Ambassador's Cup before going to work on a cattle ranch in the Outback.
And he must also pass further tests before his place at Sandhurst is secured. He passed the initial one-day exam with flying colours, but the full Regular Commissions Board involves three days of tests scrutinising every facet of his personality.