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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 February 2006, 18:26 GMT
Blair met 100th war death soldier
The prime minister met Cpl Pritchard during a visit to Iraq

The 100th British soldier to be killed in Iraq was photographed with Prime Minister Tony Blair weeks before he died in a roadside bomb attack.

Cpl Gordon Pritchard met Mr Blair when the prime minister toured Iraq just days before Christmas.

He was part of a three Land Rover convoy which was hit by an explosion, killing the father-of-three instantly.

His parents, Jenny and Bill, from Edinburgh, said their son was the epitome of a professional soldier.

'Deeply missed'

Cpl Pritchard was one of a number of servicemen and women who chatted to the prime minister at a base near Basra in December.

Mr Blair's official spokesman said any contact between the prime minister and the Pritchard family would be a private matter.

The soldier, whose father also served in the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, had known the Army all his life.

He joined, aged 17, in 1992 and served in Kosovo before training in Canada.

He was married to Julie-Anne and they had three children - Stacey, Harrison and Summer.

Always quick with a smile, with an especially dry sense of humour, he led his men by example
Lt Col Ben Edwards

In a statement, his parents said: "He was a well-trained, well-motivated soldier serving in a regiment that he was extremely proud of, as did his father and elder brother.

"He was a loving son and a very proud family man and he will be deeply missed by us all."

They later added: "His performance as an instructor at the Army Training Regiment Winchester was particularly noteworthy.

"He was officially recognised as the best instructor in the ATR at the time and he was held in the highest regard by his recruits, fellow instructors and by his superiors.

"Gordon took pride in excelling in all that he did. Gordon loved his family, loved his regiment and enjoyed his life to the full."

The soldier was described by his commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Ben Edwards, as having the "intelligence, professionalism, compassion and humour" to make it to the highest levels.

In a glowing tribute, Lt Col Edwards said: "He was a soldier with very great potential and had been identified in the last year as one for whom the regiment had high hopes.

"Always quick with a smile, with an especially dry sense of humour, he led his men by example."

'Courageous' job

Cpl Pritchard's death came the day after that of L/Cpl Douglas, 22, of Aberdeen, who was killed while serving with The Highlanders.

Mr Blair paid tribute to the pair, telling MPs that they had been doing a "courageous" job and were owed a tremendous debt of gratitude.

His statement was echoed by other party leaders in the Commons during Prime Minister's Questions.

L/Cpl Allan Douglas
Mr Blair paid tribute to L/Cpl Douglas and Cpl Pritchard

Mr Blair said: "I'm sure the whole house will join me in sending our condolences to the families of the two British soldiers killed in Iraq this week.

"And to agree on the remarkable job our armed forces are doing, with courage, dedication and sheer professionalism in the service of their country and to help Iraq in becoming the democracy its people clearly want."

He later said it was important "not to walk away, but to stand up and fight back".

The Conservatives' UK leader David Cameron and acting Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell also expressed their condolences to the families of the two soldiers.

Scottish National Party defence spokesman Angus Robertson called on the government to set a firm timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq in the wake of the deaths.

The 100th fatality in Iraq since the start of hostilities almost three years ago sparked a rush of anti-war feeling and calls for troops to be withdrawn.

The Stop the War Coalition organised vigils across the country to read out the names of the dead and light candles.


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