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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 November, 2003, 18:59 GMT
Fallen Brits in Iraq remembered
Kim Ghattas
By Kim Ghattas
BBC correspondent

One after the other, the names were read out, as the wreaths were laid in front of the obelisk at the Basra war memorial in southern Iraq.

The names were not those of the 54,000 British and Commonwealth troops who died in Iraq during the two world wars but of the 53 British soldiers who died more recently, in the war to topple Saddam Hussein.

The Sheibah War Memorial on the outskirts of Basra, Iraq
The memorial holds the names of British troops killed in Iraq up to 1921
Four hundred troops representing all units serving in Iraq came together to attend the service, from the King's regiment to the Queen's Royal Hussars, the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy.

In 1997, Saddam Hussein ordered the memorial to be moved from the city to a remote location in the desert, half an hour outside Basra.

It is unclear what motivated the presidential decree but a lot of effort and manpower went into the move, as the memorial, which honours those fallen between 1914 and 1921, was re-built stone-by-stone in its present location.

The last time a remembrance service was held in Iraq was in Baghdad in 1989 and in Basra itself the last service was in 1954.

For the British soldiers serving in Iraq today, the Remembrance Day service had a particular poignancy and their chaplain had a strong message for them.

"We have all been reminded by their deaths, that people are out to kill us also in this place," said the UK forces Chaplain, Colonel Paddy Cable.

"Yet we cannot spend all our energy on self-preservation because we have a job to do and that job involves risks. If this were an easy task and a safe place to be we wouldn't be needed," he added.

Present danger

There is indeed no in end sight for the violence in Iraq, even though southern Iraq remains considerably more quiet than central and Western Iraq.

On Sunday morning, a British convoy was hit by a road side bomb, but this was the first incident of this month in the area.

In comparison, US troops are coming under attack an average of 33 times in areas that are dominantly Sunni and considerably more hostile to the coalition than the Shia south.

The Sheibah War Memorial on the outskirts of Basra, Iraq
The Sheibah War Memorial was moved brick-by-brick into the desert
In Basra, British troops on patrol are still met with smiles and extended hands, a sight not common anymore in Baghdad.

The streets are bustling with activity until many hours after dark and the atmosphere is tangibly more relaxed.

In many ways it has to do with the improvements the toppling of Saddam Hussein has brought to an area abandoned by the former regime as a punishment for the Shia rebellion in 1991.

Now, streets are being paved in remote areas, the power supply is on 24 hours a day, compared to just a few hours a day before the war, mud hut schools are being replaced by proper buildings.

But security remains a concern in Iraq as a whole, the reason behind the ICRC's decision to close its offices not only in Baghdad but also in Basra.

British soldiers in Basra paid tribute today to those who fell as they fought in wars over the years but they know more may fall in the future while trying to bring peace and stability to Iraq.


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