Families of Iraq war dead hear Chilcot’s findings

Composite image of the 179 troops that died during the conflict in Iraq
Composite image of the 179 troops that died during the conflict in Iraq

Families of some of the 179 Britons killed during the Iraq war have been reacting after the long-awaited report into the conflict was published on Wednesday.

Several grieving mothers, fathers, partners and other family members streamed into the Queen Elizabeth II centre in London where they were given an early glimpse of the 2.6 million-word, 12-volume tome.

I hope he (Blair) goes to his bed and thinks ‘What the hell have I done?’ because he will never be forgiven.

In it, report author Sir John Chilcot criticised Tony Blair - the Prime Minister in 2003 who presented the case for war and led the invasion - for committing to backing US counterpart George W Bush over Iraq.

It also criticised Government ministers’ justification for, planning and conduct of a military intervention which “went badly wrong, with consequences to this day”.

Several military operations were described in the report as “hastily prepared” and led to equipment shortages for British personnel - an issue which several victims’ families have long campaigned over.

However, the report stopped short of making a judgement on the legality of the war.

Eddie Hancock, from Wigan, whose 19-year-old son Jamie Hancock was a kingsman with the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment when he was killed in Basra in 2006, said: “First of all, Chilcot’s report ... he’s done exactly as he said he would - it wasn’t a whitewash by any means. He’s fulfilled the promises that he made in 2009.

“Obviously, some people will never be happy unless there’s a rope there.

“But, what he has actually said is that (Tony) Blair undermined the United Nations. Now, if somebody does that, you would think that the act was illegal. He’s also misled parliament, he’s fabricated facts and misrepresented them.

“I hope and I would like to call on all politicians in this country that for the grievous damage this man has inflicted on this nation, on its armed forces, that he be banned from any form of public office for life. At the very least.”

The parents of Alec MacLachlan from Llanelli, who served in Iraq and returned to the country as a private security guard in 2006 where he was kidnapped and killed, said it was clear from the report that Mr Blair was “George Bush’s poodle”.

As he left the QEII centre, father Peter MacLachlan told the Press Association: “The report was very factual. And it didn’t hold anything back.”

He said he did not think the war was based on a lie but added “in the future they should think of the consequences for a lot longer”.

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Ronnie Barker, whose son, Private Lee Ellis, died in 2006, said she broke down in tears when reading the report.

Pte Ellis was 23 when he was killed by a roadside bomb along with Captain Richard John Holmes when a home-made bomb exploded under their vehicle.

Ms Barker said the report found the vehicle he was travelling in was “not fit for purpose”.

She said: “We went in thinking it was going to be a whitewash but I actually cried.”

Asked what she wanted to happen next, Ms Barker said she “would like to see Tony Blair sent to court”.

Roger Bacon’s son, Major Matthew Bacon, died when a roadside bomb exploded, hitting the vehicle he was travelling in, near Basra.

He said: “Never again must so many mistakes be allowed to sacrifice British lives and lead to the destruction of a country for no positive end.

“We were proud when our husbands, sons and daughters signed up to serve our country. But we cannot be proud of the way our government has treated them.

“We must use this report to make sure that all parts of the Iraq War fiasco are never repeated again. Neither in a theatre of war, nor in the theatre of Whitehall.

“We call on the British Government immediately to follow up Sir John’s findings to ensure that the political process by which our country decides to go to war is never again twisted and confused with no liability for such actions.”

The families’ lawyer, Matthew Jury, said: “The families have waited a long time for today to come. They have acted with patience, courage and dignity throughout this entire process.”

He added: “In the coming days and weeks, the families will undertake a full and forensic review of the report’s content and conclusions.

“If state officials are determined to have acted unlawfully or in excess of their powers then the families will then decide on whether to take any necessary and appropriate action at the proper time. All options will be considered.

“Just as importantly, as well as examining the culpability of individual state officials, we must also look at the process that led to the war so that we never make such grave mistakes with such tragic long-term and far-reaching consequences again.”

Rose Gentle, whose son, Gordon Gentle, died while serving in Iraq with the Royal Highland Fusiliers, said the report meant Tony Blair “got his comeuppance today”.

Fusilier Gentle, from Pollok in Glasgow, was 19 when an IED exploded under his Land Rover in Basra in June 2004.

Speaking after the report was published, Mrs Gentle said she was pleased with its findings.

“I didn’t think we were going to get that verdict today but I’m really pleased,” she said.

“I hope he (Blair) goes to his bed and thinks ‘What the hell have I done?’ because he will never be forgiven.

“He will be remembered not as a prime minister but as a person who sent them on an illegal war.

“I would love to see him in court.”