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Last Updated: Friday, 23 May, 2003, 13:27 GMT 14:27 UK
Profile: Colonel Tim Collins
The Army leader who has been cleared by a military investigation for alleged war crimes is profiled by BBC News Online.


Colonel Tim Collins' rousing speech to British soldiers hours before they entered into battle in Iraq ensured he made headlines around the world.

Col Tim Collins during the Iraq conflict

In an inspirational address to the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment, he said: "If you are ferocious in battle remember to be magnanimous in victory."

He urged his troops to wrap their fallen comrades in a sleeping bag, fight on and grieve for them after the heat of battle.

But poignantly he also warned the 600 soldiers poised in the Iraqi border, that some of them may not return to their families.

The colonel's speech won high praise in a personal letter from Prince Charles, while President George W Bush is understood to have requested a copy for the wall of the Oval Office.

Ambition

The 43-year-old colonel's rise through the ranks has not surprised his military peers.

One former colleague described him as a very professional soldier who was highly regarded by everyone who served with him.
He was a fairly regular, decent bloke, a good lad but obviously focused on what he wanted to do
Former classmate

To his men he is known as "Nails", a reflection of his strong character and unflinching determination.

The colonel's upbringing in Northern Ireland, where he was born in April 1960, played a central part in forming his future ambitions.

As a young schoolboy in Belfast he witnessed at close hand the terrible violence.

But from an early age he told his mother, Mary, that he wanted to be "a great soldier".

Mrs Collins, 72, told the Mail on Sunday in the days before the start of the war in Iraq that when her young son came in from school, he would swap his uniform for a camouflage suit.

"There was a field of army huts nearby and soldiers there and that's where Timothy would play.

"He recruited all the young boys in the neighbourhood into his army and he was the commanding officer," she told the paper.

Schoolboy memories

Classmate Jack Moffatt said the future Royal Irish commander was a crack shot in rifle competitions as a young cadet.

"He was never terribly sporty but certainly at school his ambition was to join the Army.

"He was a fairly regular, decent bloke, a good lad but obviously focused on what he wanted to do."

Col Collins decided on higher education before entering the military for a 22 year career.

He was a pupil at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution where he left with A-Levels in English, history and art.

Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst
The colonel was trained at the prestigious Sandhurst

Michael Ridley, principal of his old school, said recently the school was proud of what he had achieved.

"Everybody who knew him was impressed with him and saw him as a very enthusiastic person."

He went on to Queen's University, Belfast, graduating with a degree in social sciences, before being accepted at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst.

There he was commissioned into the Royal Signals, transferring to the Royal Irish Rangers in 1982.

He served in Germany, Cyprus, the Falkland Islands and Gibraltar, and completed two tours of duty on home soil in South Armagh and East Tyrone.

Intellectual pursuits

He was appointed commanding officer of the 1st Battalion Royal Irish, based in Canterbury, Kent, two years ago.

Throughout his career he has stretched himself both physically and intellectually, combining demanding physical training courses with spells of further education.

In 1994, he graduated as a Master of Arts after attending the Army Command and Staff College at Camberley.

He is married to Caroline, and has four sons and a daughter.

Outside of 'office hours', Col Collins is known to prefer more low key pursuits.

The enigmatic leader - who was often seen smoking a cigar and wearing designer sunglasses during the conflict - likes fly fishing and playing a round of golf.

Mr Collins, who was promoted to colonel after the war, has now left the regiment for a new posting.



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