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Last Updated: Monday, 29 October 2007, 15:19 GMT
Fusilier's final patrol described
Gordon Gentle
Fusilier Gentle was killed in June 2004

A soldier killed in Iraq had volunteered for a dangerous "top cover" sentry role on his final patrol, an inquiry into his death has heard.

Gordon Gentle, of the 1st Battalion Royal Highland Fusiliers, was killed by a roadside bomb in Basra in 2004.

His death prompted allegations of Ministry of Defence failings.

The first day of evidence at the inquiry has heard how electronic counter measures were not fitted to his unit's vehicles until the day he died.

The 19-year-old's mother, Rose, from Glasgow, has been a critic of the conflict and campaigned unsuccessfully for an inquiry into the war's legality.

Ms Gentle has said she holds Tony Blair responsible for her son's death and that he died because of "government lies".

The Gentle family have said they believed the blast which killed the soldier was triggered remotely and the attack could have been prevented if his vehicle had been fitted with the right equipment.

New device

The first day of the inquest at Oxford Coroners Court heard how Fusilier Gentle had been in Iraq less than a month before he was killed after finishing his basic and operational training in May 2004.

His commanding officer Col Paul Cartwright told the hearing how on the day of his death Fusilier Gentle had volunteered to be a 'top cover' sentry on an armoured Land Rover known as a Snatch.

It was in a convoy passing through Basra when an improvised explosive device (IED) planted by insurgents went off. The court heard the route on which they were travelling was nicknamed "IED Alley" by some soldiers.

Answering questions from Nick Brown, the lawyer representing Mrs Gentle, Col Cartwright said he became aware of a new device to combat roadside bombs during May.

The electronic counter measure device - referred to in court as "Element B" - was the latest technology to detect radio controlled bombs used by insurgents at the time.

Col Cartwright told the inquest he made it a "high priority" to get the equipment for his men and put in a statement of requirement to request the kit.

I hope the inquest brings closure for us, at the same time I hope it's a learning experience and it'll save other boys out there
Rose Gentle

He said the issuing of such equipment was done on a priority basis depending on the level of threat of bombs but had pressed for his vehicles to be fitted with Element B.

The inquest heard they were eventually fitted on the day Fusilier Gentle was killed.

Col Cartwright also said he regularly asked for patrols to be cancelled and the pattern of vehicles to be varied to try and avoid predictability.

Speaking shortly before the inquiry opened, Ms Gentle told BBC Scotland she hoped it would reveal "the truth" of her son's death.

She added: "I really want to know the truth - what exactly happened to Gordon.

"We've not been told a lot by the Ministry of Defence, just that he was killed by a roadside bomb.

"I hope the inquest brings closure for us, at the same time I hope it's a learning experience and it'll save other boys out there."



SEE ALSO
Mothers lose Iraq inquiry battle
12 Dec 06 |  England

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