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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 April, 2003, 11:10 GMT 12:10 UK
Prince 'moved' by officer's battle speech
Lieutenant Colonel Tim Collins
Colonel Collins spoke without notes but from the heart
A pre-battle speech which moved soldiers to tears has won praise for the colonel who gave it from the Prince of Wales.

Prince Charles described Lieutenant Colonel Tim Collins's address to his troops on the eve of the Iraq war as "stirring, civilised and humane".

The prince was writing in a deeply personal letter to the commander, who impressed many people with his heartfelt speech to the troops.

Colonel Collins told his men in the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment: "If you are ferocious in battle remember to be magnanimous in victory."

Prince Charles commended him on displaying "the highest traditions of military leadership".

I hope you will forgive me for writing in this way, but it made me so proud to read what you said
Prince Charles

Colonel Collins shared the letter, written from the prince's Highland retreat of Birkhall, with his soldiers on peacekeeping duty on the Iran-Iraq border.

"I was delighted to receive such a personal letter from our future king," he told the Mail on Sunday.

"I have shared it with the men because I believe his sentiments were meant for all of us.

"I hope he does not mind me disclosing its contents. I think it reminds us how in touch he is with public life and his genuine concern for the people of Iraq who have suffered so much."

'Tread lightly in Iraq'

As much a plea for compassion as a battle cry, Colonel Collins's oration was unplanned and affected public opinion in the UK and America.

At the time the officer said he felt his men, although willing to fight, were troubled by the political and moral doubts which beset much of Britain.

As their leader, he wished to share his own conviction that the conflict was morally right, for democratic and humane reasons.

Prince Charles in the Balkans
Prince Charles is the Commander-in-Chief of many regiments

In the speech, he reminded his men that Saddam Hussein and his regime were the enemy, not the Iraqi people, and that they should take care not to destroy anything of religious or cultural significance.

"Iraq is steeped in history. It is the site of the Garden of Eden, of the Great Flood and the birthplace of Abraham. Tread lightly there," he told them.

Prince Charles wrote that what he had found "so moving" was "that you totally understood the nature of Iraq and her people and the need, above all, for respect if the peace is to be won".

"I hope you will forgive me for writing in this way, but it made me so proud to read what you said," the prince continued.

"It was in the highest traditions of military leadership and I simply had to express my admiration."

The prince says he hopes his brother Prince Andrew will forgive him "interfering" in his regiment but "as you have a reinforcement company from one of my Regiments - the 2nd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles - I felt there may be some justification!"

  • Written with pool copy from Sarah Oliver of the Mail on Sunday in southern Iraq.


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