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Last Updated: Friday, 20 August, 2004, 08:05 GMT 09:05 UK
Soldier's mum's anger at Prescott
Rose Gentle and her 14 year old daughter Maxine outside 10 Downing Street
Gordon Gentle was sent to Iraq one month after completing his training
The mother of a soldier killed in Iraq stormed out of a meeting with John Prescott saying he talked "rubbish".

Rose Gentle and 14-year-old daughter Maxine had been in Downing Street to hand over a letter to Tony Blair stating concerns about the Iraq war.

In the letter, Rose wrote the war was only "over oil and money", and added Mr Blair would never understand the pain of losing a brother at war.

Gordon Gentle, 19, was killed by a roadside bomb in Basra on 28 June.

On the same day, the US-led administration handed over power to the new Iraqi government.

The teenager, from Glasgow, was serving with the 1st Battalion Royal Highland Fusiliers, and had been sent to Iraq only weeks after completing his training.

Disgust

Mr Prescott apologised that a handwritten letter of condolence from Mr Blair arrived nearly seven weeks after the tragedy.

Mrs Gentle is understood to have been furious that the letter took so long to come - it arrived just days after her plan to travel from Scotland to Downing Street was made public.

I don't just blame Gordon's death on the Iraqis that made the roadside bomb - I blame you as well because it is your fault that our soldiers are over there
Maxine Gentle, aged 14

Mr Prescott, standing in for Mr Blair while he is on holiday, accepted her letter in person but Mrs Gentle said she had had a "forceful" exchange with the politician.

Mrs Gentle said she then walked out in disgust.

She said: "He apologised for the lateness of the letter and did not know why I had just received it."

Mr Prescott promised to pass on her concerns to the prime minister after Mrs Gentle demanded a meeting with him.

'Error'

She added: "I then walked out. He was just talking a lot of rubbish."

The delay in the letter of condolence is understood to have come about as the result of an administrative error.

Fusilier Gordon Gentle
'My big brother meant the world to me,' Maxine wrote in her letter
In her letter, Maxine accusing Mr Blair of sending young men to take part in a war in order "not to get on the wrong side of George Bush".

"My brother died at the age of 19, and what for? A war over oil and money, that's what I think the war is all about," she wrote.

She went on to question how people could be sent to war after such a brief training period.

"What I find strange is that in order to be a qualified plumber or electrician you need to train for three or four years, but to be a qualified soldier, and learn to kill someone, you only need to train for six months," she argued.

"You would not know how we all feel, because you're at home at night with your wife and son watching them growing up, but we will never know what Gordon could have been like in years to come."

Withdrawal call

Commenting on the meeting, Downing Street said: "Mr Prescott was in the building working and felt it was appropriate to offer to have a meeting with Mrs Gentle when he heard she was going to deliver the letter written by her daughter.

"He accepted that letter and said he would pass it on to the prime minister and he apologised for the delay in the letter from Mr Blair."

Mrs Gentle returned the letter and branded it an insult to her son's memory.

The prime minister had written: "I was uncertain, having read your comments in the newspapers, whether you would resent my writing to you."

He continued by paying tribute to the soldier's "courage, dedication and professionalism" and said he believed the effort in Iraq was "vital".

But Mrs Gentle said: "The soldiers should not be there and it is time they brought our boys back home."




WATCH AND LISTEN
Rose and Maxine Gentle
"This has nothing to do with politics, nobody tells us what to do"



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