Chilcot Inquiry - Lessons Must Be Learned From Body Armour Chaos Which Caused Deaths In Iraq

MoD Must Ensure Our Troops Are Better Prepared For Future Battles


Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

Specialist military lawyers representing the widow of the first British soldier killed during the Iraq conflict say the Chilcot Report sheds light on the “chaos” caused by equipment shortages and highlights the lessons needed to be learned to ensure our troops are never again sent into combat without the right kit.

Sgt Steven Roberts, 33, from Wadebridge in Cornwall, was shot in a friendly fire incident on 24 March 2003 near Basra. A Coroner found in 2006 that "unforgivable and inexcusable" delays in providing body armour and serious failures in the acquisition and support chain meant that thousands of soldiers were sent into combat without appropriate armour.

Specialist military lawyer Geraldine McCool from Irwin Mitchell represented his widow Samantha Roberts at the inquest into his death and also submitted information to the Chilcot Inquiry on her behalf in 2010, the same day Geoff Hoon also gave evidence to the Inquiry. Both Geraldine and Samantha were in London today to discuss the findings of the Report.

Geraldine says the report highlights much of what was already feared about the chaos surrounding body armour shortages and highlights important lessons for Government and the MoD about preparing troops for war.

Expert Opinion
“It’s absolutely crucial that lessons are learned from this Inquiry in order to protect our soldiers in any current and future conflicts. For our troops and their families it is a matter of life and death. Whatever the reasons for going to war, there is simply no excuse for sending our troops into Iraq, or any other warzone, without providing them with the most appropriate equipment and training to help prepare them for battle.

“The inquest and investigations into Sgt Roberts' death proved that he - along with thousands of others - was not given Enhanced Combat Body Armour which would have saved his life. The descriptions of tracking where body armour was and who was in possession of the available sets paints a picture of chaos where no one really knew what the situation was on the front line.

“David Cameron has today accepted that sending troops into battle without the right equipment was unacceptable and it is crucial Government never forgets the consequences.”
Geraldine McCool, Partner

Sgt Roberts had to return his body armour 4 days before his death due to shortages. These serious delays and improper training resulted in the death of Sgt Roberts, and delays in providing other equipment such as medium weight Protected Patrol Vehicles and helicopters are also criticised.

Sir John Chilcot said in his report that the Inquiry was told “the issue was it was all being done so rapidly at the last minute no one was quite sure who had what”. The Report indicates that the MoD were not fully aware of the situation on the ground during the conflict.

The Coroner’s comments on “breach of trust” fuelled the debate on the debt owed to Her Majesty’s Armed Forces now enshrined in the Armed Forces Covenant.

Now all personnel deployed on operations must have a full set of Enhanced Combat Body Armour which is what Sgt Steven Roberts’ family had long campaigned for following his death.

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's Military Injuries Team.