Sir Michael Fallon’s apology to the families of UK soldiers blown up in lightly-armoured Snatch Land Rovers in Iraq could not have been more sincere. After the deployment of such ill-equipped vehicles was heavily criticised by Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry, the Defence Secretary’s words will help to reassure relatives.
This is summed up by the heartbroken mother of Private Phillip Hewett, 21, who was killed in July 2005. After receiving Sir Michael’s letter, and admission that lives could have been saved if more suitable vehicles had been deployed, she said: “I’d like it to be that his death made a difference. He’s not just a casualty of Iraq.”
If only some of Sir Michael’s immediate predecessors had shown such contrition. He’s the seventh Defence Secretary since the death of this young soldier, one of 37 service personnel from Britain to be killed in Snatch Land Rovers. Grieving parents should not have had to fight so long to establish the truth about how their children died. Furthermore, Sir Michael – and his eventual successors – now owe it these families to ensure that the UK Armed Forces are never again deployed with inadequate kit or equipment. The memory of the 179 military personnel, and three civilian staff, who did not return home after serving Queen and country in Operation Telic deserves nothing less.