Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Corporal Thomas Walker, of D-Company, 5th Battalion The Rifles 5 Rifles, was among the first British soldiers into Basra in 2003.
In August 2006, during his second tour, close friend Corporal Matt Cornish was killed in a mortar attack on the UK base at Basra Palace.
On his third tour of Iraq, he says the changes in six years were evident.
Cpl Walker, 25, from Falmouth, Cornwall, said in the opening weeks of the campaign, he was living out of armoured vehicles.
"We had to live on rations for two months straight. It was very emotional. Back then there was no air conditioning. The kit was nowhere as good as it is now."
The Ministry of Defence handed over control of the Basra Palace base to the Iraqis in August 2007.
Speaking from the Contingency Operating Base at Basra airfield, Cpl Walker said the city was now a "completely different place".
He added: "I'm not going to say it's 100% safe, because nowhere really is.
"It's getting there. It's getting to be a half-decent country to live in, I can imagine in 10 or 20 years' time, people coming here on holiday."