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Last Updated: Friday, 23 November 2007, 16:43 GMT
Anger growing over care of troops
Soldiers
Ministers have been accused of failing British soldiers

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has rejected criticism from five former military chiefs about the treatment of and funding for the armed forces.

Other, rank-and-file critics have suggested that avoidable mistakes and equipment failures may have played a contributory part in the deaths of a number of British soldiers.

SERGEANT STEVEN ROBERTS

Sergeant Steven Roberts, 33, from Shipley, West Yorkshire, was the first British soldier killed in action in Iraq. He who was shot dead in a "friendly fire" incident while manning a checkpoint in March 2003.

He had been ordered to give up his enhanced combat body armour three days before his death, due to shortages.

A coroner later ruled he had died because of "unforgivable and inexcusable" delays in providing body armour to troops.

RED CAPS

Among the other tragedies cited is the killing of six military policemen by a mob of Iraqis in June 2003.

An inquest heard the Red Caps did not have enough ammunition or a satellite phone to summon help, despite orders. A satellite telephone shortage meant units were often sent out without one.

PRIVATE JASON SMITH

Reservist Private Jason Smith, 32, died of a heart attack brought on by heat stroke while serving in Iraq in August 2003.

An inquest heard soldiers were forced to get dehydration powders sent from families in the UK after supplies ran out.

It also heard evidence that a reference card for soldiers detailing the dangers of dehydration and how to avoid it was "misleading and inaccurate".

LANCE CORPORAL ANDREW CRAW

Lance Corporal Andrew Craw
Lance Corporal Craw died at a training range near Basra

In January 2004 Lance Corporal Andrew Craw, 21, died while trying to unblock his machine gun during a training session soon after arriving in Basra.

A report of an internal board of inquiry revealed that firing exercises had to be aborted because so many of the guns were jamming, and that there was a shortage of oil to clean and maintain the weapons.

FUSILIER GORDON GENTLE

Gordon Gentle, 19, of the Royal Highland Fusiliers was killed by a roadside bomb in Basra in June the same year. The coroner later ruled it was probable the bomb would not have detonated had a disabling device been fitted.

PRIVATE MARC FERNS

Private Marc Ferns from Glenrothes was conducting his second tour of duty in Iraq when a makeshift bomb exploded next to his Warrior armoured fighting vehicle in August 2004.

An inquest heard electronic detection equipment designed to protect troops against roadside bombs was not fitted to it.

LANCE CORPORAL SHAUN BRIERLEY

In June 2006 a coroner hit out at the failure to properly equip British troops in the lead-up to the Iraq war.

Nicholas Gardiner made his comments while recording a verdict of accidental death into the death in March 2003 of Lance Corporal Shaun Brierley, 28.

His inquest heard infra-red equipment to deter friendly fire was fitted over a headlight, obscuring a mound of tarmac in the road and the driver crashed into it.

One of the officers who designed the equipment said they were given just two weeks after an eleventh-hour meeting between Whitehall, the MoD and the US.

CORPORAL MARK WRIGHT

Corporal Mark Wright, 27, bled to death in a minefield in Afghanistan in September 2006. It was later reported the rescue took six hours as the RAF Chinook helicopter had no winches and it was too dangerous to land.

SERGEANT BEN KNIGHT

The RAF was accused of ignoring warnings that its Nimrod aircraft were unsafe prior to one exploding in Afghanistan, killing 14 airmen in September 2006.

Graham Knight, who lost his 25-year-old son Sergeant Ben Knight in the crash, said last month that he had issued a freedom of information request over the aircraft's safety.

He claimed the MoD ignored warnings from manufacturers BAE Systems that fire detection equipment was needed.

Earlier this month a Nimrod was forced to make an emergency landing in Afghanistan after fuel poured into the bomb bay.

Stung by persistent criticism of its care of the armed forces, the government has announced a six-month review of the support given to British soldiers, veterans and their families.

Judging from the latest attack by the five former defence chiefs, it has a lot of bridges to build.



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