British troops were ‘ill-equipped and unprepared’ to fight the war in Iraq, according to the Chilcot Report.
The damning findings of Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry into why the government decided to invade Iraq have finally been made public after a seven-year wait.
The conflict, from 2003 to 2009, claimed the lives of 179 British soldiers and injured many more.
Troops on the ground were badly let down, the report said, particularly when it came to assessing the dangers posed by Improvised Explosive Devices, also known as roadside bombs.
They ripped through the Snatch Land Rovers – dubbed ‘mobile coffins’ by those who used them – but it took at least three years before they were replaced with bomb-proof vehicles. Forty-seven British lives were lost through IEDs.
Soldiers had to move among buried bombs on the ground because of a lack of helicopters and there was not enough reconnaissance equipment such as surveillance balloons.
Many had to fight in green and black camouflage as desert fatigues were unavailable and some were even forced to replace their own Army-issued boots after the glue holding them together melted in the intense heat.
Ronnie Bariek, mum of Pte Lee Ellis who died after being injured by a roadside bomb, told The Sun: “My son wrote to me saying ‘I don’t want to worry you, but we don’t have this and we don’t have that.’
“When I read the paragraph in the report that confirmed the Snatch Land Rovers were not fit for purpose and nothing was done about it, I have to admit I cried so much.
“To see in writing all our suspicions confirmed was very emotional.”
The 2.3million-word report found there was no ‘imminent threat’ from Saddam Hussein at the time of the invasion and that military action was not a last resort. Intelligence that the dictator had weapons of mass destruction ready to deploy in 45 minutes was flawed, it said.
And it described planning by the then Prime Minister Tony Blair as ‘wholly inadequate’ for dealing with the aftermath of the invasion.
An estimated 150,000 Iraqis died and around a million more were displaced.
Speaking at a press conference, Tony Blair defended his decision, but called it the ‘hardest, most momentous, most agonising’ of his career.
He added: “There will not be a day of my life when I do not re-live and rethink what happened.”