Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tribute to UK troops in Basra - Press & Journal

Senior officer highlights army’s positive impact on southern Iraq.

By Jamie Grierson

A senior commanding officer has paid tribute to the sacrifices made by soldiers serving in southern Iraq as UK forces prepare to end combat operations in the Middle Eastern country.

With three tours of Iraq to his name, Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Chamberlain, Commanding Officer 5th Battalion, The Rifles (5 Rifles), was there at the beginning of the invasion in 2003 and will witness the campaign come to an end.

Lt Col Chamberlain and 650 of his 1,000 troops based at the Contingency Operating Base (COB) Basra, are now weeks away from leaving after military command was handed to the US Army last month.

Lt Col Chamberlain has no doubt the British Army has left a significantly positive mark on Basra and the surrounding province.

Standing in the COB next to one of the Warrior armoured fighting vehicles he first entered Basra in as a major in 2003, he said: “The Basra we entered was a depressed, Middle Eastern city. It was old, it was crumbling, it was dirty. It was a very rundown place. The population was very frightened, very subdued and not hugely happy.

“But now it’s changed significantly. It’s a vibrant place, the population is happy, the middle class has come back, so things are functioning in a way they weren’t in 2003.”

British combat operations will end on May 31 and nearly all of the UK’s remaining 4,100 troops will be withdrawn by July 31.

Since 2003, 179 British personnel have lost their lives.

Lt Col Chamberlain paid tribute to them, and added that improvements in the country were down to their sacrifices.

He said: “The individual, personal tragedies, for people who have been killed and their families, and those who have been injured and their families, while desperately sad, the overall effect is positive.

“This country is better now than it was in 2003. I think we should be proud of the sacrifices they’ve made for this nation.”

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