A mother’s anger at Tony Blair... and a soldier’s family still fighting for answers

Lance Corporal Ben McGowan Hyde, 23, from Northallerton, was one of six soldiers from the Royal Military Police who were killed in incident at the police station in the town of Al Majar Al Kabir.
Lance Corporal Ben McGowan Hyde, 23, from Northallerton, was one of six soldiers from the Royal Military Police who were killed in incident at the police station in the town of Al Majar Al Kabir.
0
Have your say

FOR THE family of young Ben Hyde, a Yorkshire Red Cap brutally murdered by a mob of Iraqi rioters, it has been an unrelenting 13-year battle to get to this day.

A fresh struggle at every step, as they fight to hear how the 23-year-old from Northallerton could have been killed so callously in a mass gunfight in dusty streets far from home.

The damning truth on Iraq: Blair’s mind was already made up, despite flawed intelligence challenged by no-one

Blair had ‘very little concept of democracy or international law’

Tony Blair is world’s worst terrorist says sister of Iraq War victim

At a glance: What we now know about Blair’s Iraq invasion

I didn’t lie, insists Blair as political enemies circle

The smoking gun: Blair discussed war plans with Bush nine months before invasion

How Blair tried to manipulate voters over war in Iraq

A mother’s anger at Tony Blair... and a soldier’s family still fighting for answers

Roll of honour: The 179 British troops killed in Iraq

Andrew Vine: Chilcot’s duty to those scarred by Iraq

Chilcot FAQ: Who will be blamed, and everything else you to need to know about the Iraq Inquiry

Sir John Chilcot’s statement in full

And no matter what today’s hearing will bring, for his parents John and Sandra, there will never be answers enough.

“I don’t think you can ever come to terms with it,” said John. “We still miss Ben as much now as we did the day after he was killed, 13 years ago.

“I don’t know if we will ever get any answers but I won’t stop trying.

“When Ben deployed, he had one plate of armour instead of three. He had no desert boots. The Army just wasn’t ready.

“What would I say to Tony Blair if I saw him today? I don’t know. But I know what my wife would do.”

Ben, a Lance Corporal in the Military Police, was born and brought up in Northallerton.

He was one of six British servicemen killed in June 2013 when a mob of Iraqi rioters attacked a police station he was based at near Basra.

It was the biggest single loss of life in the British Army since the Falklands War.

The young Red Cap, there to train Iraqi police officers, was beaten up and dragged through the streets of Majar al-Kabir before being murdered by the angry rioters.

He had just 50 bullets to face a mob of 400 people armed with rocket-propelled grenades and Kalashnikov rifles, and was without a standard satellite radio to call for help.

Ben and his besieged comrades held their position and none fired into the crowd. Three hours later, all six were dead.

John, now 68, still works as a porter at the Friarage Hospital where he was called that day by a padre from the barracks: ‘Could he go home straight away?’

“It was a two-and-a-half minute drive for me,” he said. “I heard it on the radio news. ‘Six British soldiers’.

“I knew before I walked in the door that Ben had been killed.”

Sanda had been watching the tennis. Tim Henman was playing at Wimbledon.

“They never actually said ‘he’s been killed’. As soon as she saw the military padre she said ‘it’s Ben, isn’t it?’”

The families of the murdered Red Caps have fought in their memories ever since for further investigations into what happened.

An inquest in 2006 recorded a narrative verdict of unlawful killing, with the coroner saying that while they should have been better equipped, their deaths could not have been avoided.

A High Court bid for a new independent inquiry failed in 2014, while the family of Corporal John Miller, who died alongside Ben, are still battling for a second inquest.

“Somebody had responsibility to ensure they were equipped as they should have been,” said John as he prepared to travel to London today for the release of the Chilcot report.

“But who do we blame? The Sergeant? The Commander? Or someone in between? At the end of the day it was the responsibility of the Army.

“I think this inquiry is going to be far more focused on the politics of the whole thing. Why were they there, why weren’t the Army ready?

“Ben’s concern was only ever about how well he would do his job. They’d already been told they wouldn’t all be coming back, but it wasn’t at the forefront of his mind.

“The MoD can bury its head in the sand. But I won’t stop trying for answers.”