Thursday, December 25, 2008

Plum pudding for one: solitary colonel who flies flag for Britain in far-off land - Times

By M Evans - Times

A colonel in Bangladesh, a military adviser in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and four Royal Navy chaps in Djibouti are among nearly 17,200 personnel who will be representing the Armed Forces on operations over Christmas.

The largest contingent will be the 8,400 serving in Afghanistan. For the 4,100 in Iraq, it will be their last Christmas before the formal withdrawal of British troops attached to Operation Telic in Basra within six months.

The spread of personnel around the world shows that although frontline troops have become increasingly stretched to meet overseas commitments, the Union Jack still flutters on military flagpoles in even the remotest parts of the world.

With the focus on Basra, two defence chiefs have spoken out against what they claim to be the rewriting of history relating to what Britain had achieved in southern Iraq. They rejected the accusation that Britain failed to quell the Shia militia in Basra and had to depend on the combined US and Iraqi Operation Charge of the Knights offensive in March to release the city from the grip of the extremists.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, the Chief of the Defence Staff, told the troops serving in Basra, in a special Christmas message, that the transformation of the southern city “represented the culmination of years of effort by the UK Armed Forces”.

General Sir Richard Dannatt, the Chief of the General Staff, also weighed in, dismissing claims that the British departure from Basra was less than glorious. In an interview with the BBC he said: “The British Army took possession of Basra in 2003 in an extremely skilful and successful campaign and in an ideal world we would probably not have stayed there that much longer . . . We have achieved what we set out to do.”

About 100,000 personnel have served in Iraq since 2003, of whom 178 have lost their lives through hostile action, accidents or disease.

For the full article click here for the Timesonline

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