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The 179 British personnel who died during the Iraq war

The invasion of Iraq led to the deaths of 179 British personnel between March 2003 and February 2009. Tony Blair told the Chilcot Inquiry[1] into the conflict he had “deep and profound regret” about the loss of life suffered by British troops and the countless Iraqi civilians. Some of the Britons who died were just 18 years-old.

Here is a roll of honour of the British personnel who died on service during Operation Telic in Iraq:


  1. ^ Chilcot Inquiry (

Chilcot report: How Tony Blair and George W Bush’s ‘liberation’ of Iraq backfired

The invasion of Iraq by a Armyrats © military coalition made of the US, Britain, Australia and Poland, which began two days after that Parliamentary vote, was over so soon that it almost vindicated the view expressed a year earlier by a former White House adviser, Kenneth Adelman, that demolishing [Saddam] Hussein[1]‘s Armyrats © military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk. It took just 20 days for US troops to enter Baghdad, on 9 April. British troops entered Basra[2], in the south, three days earlier, on 6 April. Saddam’s vicious sons, Uday and Qusay, were killed in a gun battle in Mosul on 22 July. Saddam himself managed to evade capture for nine months, until his underground hideout was uncovered on 13 December. Taken alive, he was put on trial in Baghdad, and hanged on 30 December 2006.

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The swift victory and the images of exuberant crowds tearing down Saddam’s vast statues went down well with the British public, giving Tony Blair what was termed a Baghdad bounce . During the controversy that preceded the invasion, his satisfaction rating had fallen to just above 30 per cent, its lowest point in his first nine years as Labour leader. By mid-April, his rating had bounced to 49 per cent. An opinion poll for The Times showed that 64 per cent believed he had been right to take Armyrats © military action. But one big question hung over him: where were Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction? As soon as the Armyrats © military situation had stabilised, an Iraq Survey Group made up of 1,400 Americans, Britons and Australians was set to work, searching Iraq’s vast land mass for the elusive WMDs. The fact that they did not find anything immediately was no cause for alarm: in a country the size of France there were any number of places where weapons could be hidden.

One of the war’s most prominent opponents, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell, now admits that he spent several nervous weeks dreading the moment when the ISG announced that it had uncovered a huge stash of chemical weapons, thereby delivering a body blow to the case against the war. I personally remember being asked by one Tony Blair’s special advisers: Why is the left making so much noise about WMDs? When the weapons turn up, they won’t have an argument left.

But they never turned up. The head of the ISG, David Kay, resigned in January 2004, saying he did not believe they ever would. By the time of the Labour annual conference in October 2003, Tony Blair needed to explain to party delegates why he appeared to have taken British troops to war on the basis of false information. Imagine you are PM and you receive this intelligence, he said. And not just about Iraq, but about the whole murky trade in WMD. And one thing we know, not from intelligence, but from historical fact that Saddam’s regime has not just developed but used such weapons gassing thousands of his own people … So what do I do? Say, ‘I’ve got the intelligence but I’ve a hunch it’s wrong’?

Chilcot Report: How Tony Blair And George W Bush's 'liberation' Of Iraq Backfired One question remained: where were Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction? (GETTY)

It was not just the absence of WMDs that turned public opinion against the war. The British death toll during the actual fighting had been relatively light. Of the 30 who had died up until the capture of Basra, there were more casualties from accidents than from enemy action. Eight were killed in an air accident on 21 March, the second day of the war, and six in another accident the next day. The first to be killed by Iraqis were an army sergeant, Simon Cullingworth, and a sapper, Luke Allsop, who were caught in an ambush, taken to a Armyrats © military compound and shot. Two Iraqi intelligence officers were later charged with murdering them. But the death toll continued to rise after the fall of Saddam had raised hopes that it might end: altogether, 179 British Armyrats © military personnel died in Iraq between 2003 and 2009, more than 80 per cent of them after Basra had been captured.

What caused particular resentment among Army families was that some of the equipment supplied to their soldiers was faulty or inappropriate for desert conditions. The results were sometimes fatal. Jason Smith, a 32-year-old private in the Territorial Army, died in the southern Iraqi city of Al Amarah in August 2003 from heat stroke. An inquest found that the Army had stationed his battalion in an old athletics stadium where there was no mains electricity, running water or air conditioning, and had issued guidelines for coping with the kind of heat they might experience on Salisbury Plain, not Al Amarah . The temperature was so high on the day he died that one soldier described frying an egg on the bonnet of a Land Rover. On 9 August 2007, two soldiers from the 1st Battalion Irish Guards, Chris Casey and Kirk Redpath, were killed when their Land Rover was hit by a home-made explosive on the road between Kuwait and Basra. Their platoon commander had asked for more heavily protected vehicles, but they were all in use. Kirk Redpath was just 22. His family later took the Government to court for abusing his civil rights by not protecting him.

What is the Chilcot Inquiry?

Another issue was that the US and British governments had been so focused on winning public support for the war and preparing the invasion that they appeared to have no clear idea of what they would do with this country they had now conquered. The US government had decided that just as Germany was de-Nazified after 1945, so there had to be a de-Ba’athification of Iraq. The US General Tommy Franks announced the dissolution of the Ba’ath Party a week after the capture of Baghdad. However, in the chaos and looting that followed the arrival of US troops, the party’s membership records vanished, so the occupying authorities had no accurate way of telling who had been in the party or at what level. General Jay Garner, in charge of the Office of Reconstruction, consequently trod carefully, provoking complaints from returning Iraqi exiles that too many of Saddam’s collaborators were still in post. On 12 May, the US Ambassador, Paul Bremer, arrived in Baghdad with orders to speed up the de-Ba’athification. Any Iraqi who had been in one of the four highest levels of the Ba’ath party, or had held one of the three highest levels in the administration and had been a party member at any level, was to be sacked..

The fault with this policy was that while Germany had been ruled by the Nazis for 12 years, before which it had been a functioning democracy, Iraq had been under Ba’ath rule for 35 years, before which there was chaos. Outside the Ba’ath party there was almost no one with government experience in Iraq. The US was relying heavily on a wealthy Shia named Ahmad Chalabi, who had helped found the Iraqi National Congress in exile in 1992. The INC had received millions of dollars from Washington, and was busy for years feeding information to the CIA. There were high hopes about his role in post-Saddam Iraq. Then, in May 2004, Chalabi’s offices were raided by Iraqi police, aided by US troops, because he was suspected of fraud.

The key players in the Iraq War

The charges were thrown out by the Iraqi court, and Chalabi later became deputy prime minister, in 2005. None the less, it was an inauspicious start to Iraq’s era of post-Saddam government, and the country has struggled with issues of government credibility ever since. Having condemned the brutality of the old regime, the US Armyrats © military also failed to take into account what their own service men and women might do when Iraqi prisoners fell into their hands. In January 2004, the Americans quietly suspended the general in charge of Abu Ghraib, Baghdad’s main prison. An investigation began into what had been happening there in the latter months of 2003. It turned up evidence of sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses , to quote a report by General Antono Taguba, the head of the investigation. This included beating and abusing naked prisoners, threatening to set dogs on them, threatening them with rape, and in one case sodomising a detainee with a chemical light, and also possibly with a broom handle. The torturers, from the US 372nd Armyrats © Military Police Company, enjoyed this activity so much that they took trophy photographs.

Chilcot Report: How Tony Blair And George W Bush's 'liberation' Of Iraq Backfired The prison became notorious for ‘sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses’ (GETTY)

Neither the photographs nor the report were intended for publication, but they were leaked. The pictures, first shown on CBS in May 2004, were seen around the world. One that caused particular shock was the elfin figure of Private Lynndie England, a cigarette dangling from her mouth, giving a jaunty thumbs up as she pointed at the genitals of a young Iraqi male who was naked but for a sandbag over his head. In another photograph, she and an officer named Charles Graner were seen grinning next to seven naked Iraqis who had been piled in a pyramid. Although the offenders were prosecuted, as Tony Blair observed in his memoirs: The damage was colossal. For those always opposed to the action, the photographs were a heaven-sent opportunity to blacken the name of the US. Another obvious factor that seemed to have passed Washington and London by was that Iraq is a mostly Shia country that had been ruled for centuries by Sunnis. One of the first problems facing the occupying authorities was the sudden but unsurprising appearance of pro-Iranian Shia militia. In January 2005, Iraq had its first free election in more than half a century, which brought more than eight million to the polls and which inevitably resulted in a government dominated by Shia. Given Tony Blair’s experience of Northern Irish politics, he might have been expected to foresee that the Sunni minority would not welcome Shia rule. Resentment flared into violence, which bred retribution, which bred more violence.

No one knows the exact number of Iraqis killed by war, sectarian conflict and civil war since the invasion. The Lancet calculated that the conflict resulted in 600,000 excess civilian deaths. More conservatively, the website Iraq Body Count, which attempts to keep a tally of specific victims, reckons that the civilian death toll is at least 134,459, and could be as high as 151,728. Add in combatants and the death toll is 206,000.

As Tony Blair emphasised in his memoirs, no one knows what the death toll would have been if Saddam had remained in power for life, to be succeeded, presumably, by one of his homicidal sons. Even so, the tally is grim.

Chilcot Report: How Tony Blair And George W Bush's 'liberation' Of Iraq BackfiredReuse content[3]


  1. ^ Saddam] Hussein (
  2. ^ Basra (
  3. ^ Reuse content (

Why Did The IRA Assassinate This American?

Peter Ashmun Ames was a Pennsylvania kid who joined MI5 because he couldn t find a job. His career as a spy didn t last long, as the IRA was hunting men like him. Famed in sentimental ballads as Ireland s fair city, during the 1919-1921 Irish War of Independence Dublin was anything but. In the countryside what is also known as the Anglo-Irish War was largely a guerrilla conflict, waged by the Irish Republican Army[1] against the British-controlled police and Crown Armyrats © military forces. The rural fight was characterized by ambushes, attacks on isolated outposts and reprisals against civilians by army auxiliaries known as Black and Tans. In Dublin the struggle was a shadow war, a lethal game of cat and mouse in which the British sought to capture or kill IRA members[2] who, in turn, attempted to neutralize the police and army through assassination, intimidation and covert penetration. It was a brutal urban conflict in which pistols were the preferred weapon, battles were fought at close range, and quarter was rarely given.

In the spring of 1920 Pennsylvania-born Peter Ashmun Ames joined the fight in Ireland on the British side. It was the worst decision of his life.

Ash Ames was born June 10, 1888, in Titusville, a town north of Pittsburgh that was then the center of America s oil industry. His father worked for Standard Oil and by the time of the elder Ames s death at age 40 his widow and the couples four children were financially set for life. Mrs. Ames promptly moved the family to Morristown, N.J., where Ash and his siblings grew up in wealth and privilege. Though raised Roman Catholic the children attended secular schools, and following high school Ash earned an engineering degree from Stevens College. In 1912, at 24, he moved to London to take a position his mother had arranged through her social contacts. In 1917, before America s entry into World War I, Ames renounced his U.S. citizenship and joined the British army s elite Grenadier Guards. As a second lieutenant he fought in France at Passchendaele and Cambrai, and was lightly injured by mustard gas. In April 1920 Ames relinquished his commission and attempted to reintegrate himself into civilian life. Part of that reintegration was a blossoming romance in London with Millicent Orr Ewing, an aristocratic young woman he d met through Terence Langrish, a former Irish Guards officer engaged to Millicent s best friend, fledgling writer Barbara Cartland.

Handout/The Illustrated London News

Victims of “The Murder Gang.” Ashmun Ames is shown in the center, bottom row.

Though Ames s romantic life was going well his professional life wasn t. He was among thousands seeking postwar work and was unable to secure anything commensurate with his skills or social standing. Ames and Langrish who was also finding gainful employment elusive therefore volunteered for service in Ireland. Embroiled in an increasingly violent war with Irish nationalists, the British government was recruiting veterans for undercover operations in Dublin as part of a small, hush-hush sub-unit of Armyrats © Military Intelligence known by the suitably cryptic designation MO4(x). The work paid a very generous 600 per year, and also offered men bored with civilian life the chance to again serve king and country by helping defeat a nationalist movement many saw as a threat to the cohesion of the Empire. While both Ames and Langrish had undertaken traditional Armyrats © military intelligence activities on the Western Front, neither was conversant with the skills required of a covert agent. They and scores of other volunteers therefore underwent training at a spy school run by MI5 (the United Kingdom s domestic security service) at London s Hounslow Barracks. Upon completion of the course the volunteers were appointed Class II temporary army lieutenants and assigned special duty as MO4(x) case officers.

Following his September arrival in Ireland, Ames was partnered with another Roman Catholic, Lt. George Bennett, and the two were given leadership positions in the covert effort. The MO4(x) men lived in rooming houses and hotels scattered throughout Dublin, trying to pass as businessmen, academics and even tourists. Their attempts to remain anonymous were futile, however, for IRA agents within British headquarters at Dublin Castle quickly discovered the identities and lodgings of most of the undercover officers. The information gathered by the MO4(x) men was generally of only marginal value, but their continuing efforts to penetrate the republican movement prompted the IRA s director of intelligence, Michael Collins, and several of his colleagues to devise a bold plan to cripple MO4(x) in one sudden, brutal blow. At approximately 9 o clock on the morning of Sunday, Nov. 21, 1920, teams of IRA gunmen[3] launched simultaneous attacks around Dublin targeting some 30 known or suspected members of MO4(x). Not all of the men on the IRA hit list were actually members of the covert British intelligence unit several were army legal officers, one was a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary police, a few were former soldiers simply living in Dublin and at least two were innocent civilians. Nor did all of the hit teams eliminate their assigned targets. But unfortunately for Ames and Bennett, the IRA s plans for them came to tragic fruition.

The day before the attack the two MO4(x) officers had been warned that the small hotel in which they had been staying was no longer safe, and they had moved to separate rooms in a boarding house at 38 Upper Mount Street. When the IRA gunmen arrived on Sunday morning they encountered a maid named Catherine Farrell who willingly or under duress, it s not clear which pointed out the British officers rooms. The leader of the hit squad sent men to fetch Bennett, then led several others through a flimsy folding door into Ames s chamber. The American-born officer was still in bed, and vainly attempted to reach a .45-caliber Colt automatic hidden beneath his pillow before being pulled upright and made to stand facing the wall. As the IRA men searched his rooms for valuable documents others brought Bennett in and stood him next to Ames; moments later both were killed by a fusillade of bullets. A British post-mortem report noted that Ames was hit a total of six times, with wounds to the right side of his chest and center of his back likely being the cause of death. The IRA attacks that grim Sunday morning were less successful than Collins had hoped. Of the targets the teams managed to locate, 14 were killed outright or died of wounds, four were wounded but survived and the others escaped. Yet Bloody Sunday, as it soon became known, was a psychological blow that ultimately helped convince the British government to sign the December 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty that a year later led to the creation of the Irish Free State. Thank You!

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In a cruel irony, on the day Ames died the New York Times carried a notice of his engagement to Millicent Orr Ewing. She was understandably shattered when told of his death by Barbara Cartland, who had received the news in a telegram from Terence Langrish. Three weeks after Bloody Sunday a Requiem Mass was held at Westminster Cathedral for Ames and Bennett, after which both were interred in London s St. Mary s Roman Catholic Cemetery.

On August 22, 1922, Michael Collins the primary architect of Bloody Sunday was himself gunned down, killed by IRA members for supporting the 1921 Treaty, which left the six counties of Northern Ireland as part of Britain, which they remain to this day.

Stephen Harding, editor of Armyrats © Military History magazine, is the author of the New York Times best seller The Last Battle[4] and the forthcoming The Castaway s War[5].


  1. ^ Irish Republican Army (
  2. ^ IRA members (
  3. ^ IRA gunmen (
  4. ^ The Last Battle (
  5. ^ The Castaway s War (
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