My memories of the invasion of Iraq on 20 March 2003 are as vivid today as they were then, and subsequent events mean they will stay with me forever.
First, let me take you back a month. Each year since my grandson was born in Germany I went to visit them in late February or early March. In 2003 when I called to confirm, I was told that my son Shaun, a lance corporal, would not be there as he had been posted. I still went and found out he was posted to Iraq. He hadn’t told us as he didn’t want us to worry.
While I was there, his partner received a phone call from Shaun and I was able to speak briefly with him. He told me they couldn’t wait to get started so they could get the job done and return home.
Back to 20 March and watching the first bombardment. This obviously caused us to worry but we had to put it to the back of our minds or we would not have been able to carry on with our day-to-day lives.
On 30 March, Mother’s Day, we had been out for a meal with our other children and were just getting ready to go to bed when there was a knock on the door. It was an army liaison officer informing us that Shaun had been killed in Iraq that afternoon. When you get that news you are given a few hours to inform relatives and friends before the name is passed to the press.
We phoned around informing people but had to visit grandparents. My mother was recovering from a heart attack and she had been close to Shaun and I knew she would take the news badly. I spent the next few hours with her in A&E while my wife was left at home with Shaun’s brothers and sister.
In the days following the announcement in the press, I was contacted on several occasions by the press and decided to do the interviews, I wanted to keep Shaun’s name alive. He was a person, not a number.
In 2005, I was contacted the following day by Stop the War Coalition (STWC) – they were starting a group, Military Families Against the War and were going to court to get an inquiry into the legality of the invasion. We had many court sessions right up to the law lords court. We were unsuccessful but were promised an inquiry when the war was over.
I was just an ordinary working man from Batley but during this time I spoke at STWC meetings around the country and attended several protest marches where I spoke to many thousands of people. I also spoke at a meeting in Paris and led a march to the American embassy in Sweden.
We eventually got the Chilcot Inquiry and attended the hearings where Tony Blair gave evidence. The first time it was like the Tony Blair Show and he seemed to run the proceedings, the second time, after they had heard evidence from other people, he appeared less sure of himself. Chilcot ruled that mistakes had been made and made recommendations for the future.
People often ask me what I think of Blair. The common thought for me is that he is a war criminal and should be on trial in the Hague. Sadly this will never happen as he is protected by parliament and can’t be held accountable for his actions while prime minister.
My wish for Blair is that he should retire with his millions and never be seen again. He has always refused to meet any of the families to explain why he invaded Iraq and was responsible for the loss of their sons and daughters. In 2009, I did manage to confront him. I told him he had the blood of service people and thousands of Iraqis on his hands and would one day have to pay for that.