UK troops in Iraq were sent armour by their families: DUP MP

Soldiers in training. (David Cheskin/PA Wire)
Soldiers in training. (David Cheskin/PA Wire)

People resorted to sending soldiers fighting in the Iraq war body armour amid fears they were not getting the proper kit from the Ministry of Defence, a DUP MP has revealed.

The comments come after the highly critical Chilcot Inquiry found British troops were sent into the war with “serious equipment shortfalls when the conflict began”.

Jim Shannon, DUP MP for Strangford, said families also sent boots and warm clothes to loved ones serving in the conflict as he demanded better support for soldiers “serving Queen and country”.

Speaking in a Commons debate on the Chilcot Report, he said: “We can’t keep sending forces into places they are not prepared to go into, both in terms of equipment and understanding of the reason.

“Estimates for the length of time a mission may take need to be more conservative and honest in future, not only to fully prepare our Armed Forces, but to regain much of the damaged public trust.

“I wasn’t a member of this House at the time of the Iraq War, but I’ve had constituents come to me who were sending socks and boots and food and body warmers, and on one occasion I’m aware of, body armour to their people in Iraq.”

He added: “There is something wrong when our people serve across the seas and we, as families, have to send them stuff that the Army should be sending them when they go out.

“There needs to be an honest conversation. A lot of the things that went wrong can be explained by the lack of resources – we simply haven’t got the capacity to fight on so many fronts anymore.”

Mr Shannon warned that veterans of Iraq and other wars have been left without support and given their marching orders by the Army just days before being eligible for their full pensions.

He mentioned the case of one Army Major who was told he was being made redundant the same day he received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal for his service, which had seen him fight in the Falklands and Afghanistan as well as Iraq.

Mr Shannon said: “These are some of the people who fought for Queen and country, who did their bit, and then when they needed the support back home it fell short, and it fell short with a vengeance.

“We must take care of our veterans, we must make sure they receive absolutely first-class service from the state, are offered the best and get the best as well.

“Are we going to have a statistic some day when more Iraq veterans have committed suicide than were actually killed in the conflict?”

Conservative Philip Davies (Shipley), raising the deaths of two of his constituents due to equipment shortages, said: “We should never, ever again send our armed forces into combat without properly equipping them for the task in hand.”

Tory Julian Lewis, who chairs the Defence Select Committee, replied: “Never, ever again is a very strong statement and the truth of the matter is that it is seldom the case that, when a conflict arises, and especially when a conflict arises as a result of events that were unforeseen, that the armed forces are fully equipped in every respect.”