‘We put our trust in our commanders,’ says Iraq War veteran
- Credit: IAN BURT
A former RAF gunner from Dereham, who served his first tour in Iraq in 2007, said in light of the Chilcot inquiry he has questioned whether the four comrades from his squadron who were killed in the fighting lost their lives in vain.
Craig Richardson, 29, was serving with One Squadron based at RAF Honington when they were deployed to join the fight against Saddam Hussein.
He became close friends with leading aircraftman Martin Beard who was killed by a gunshot while taking part in a routine foot patrol close to the the British base at Basra air station.
'We went out thinking we were doing this for a reason but in light of what has happened today it does make you question whether we were being led up the wrong path,' he said, having just flown back to the UK from America where he now lives with his new wife, to visit friends and family in his home town.
'We believed everything we were doing was for the greater good.
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'We put our trust in our commanders and thought we would go out there and do everything we need to do.
'Looking back now at the equipment we had we possibly were not ready at the time but back then we did not have any concerns.'
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But he said he did not lay the blame at Tony Blair's door.
'Even though he pushed for it, it takes more than just one person to make the decision,' he said. 'Yes he wanted it but it was a collaborative decision.
'We lost four lads on that tour. I was fresh and green on my first tour but they lost their young lives and that puts things in perspective, and I now do question whether their lives were lost in vain.
'But we all signed up and knew what could happen. I hope their lives were not lost for nothing. It is very, very tough in light of what has come out (in the Chilcot report).'
Mr Richardson's second tour with the squadron was to Afghanistan in 2008.
His unit had the task of patrolling around the base at Kandahar and after responding to a call for help an IED exploded at his feet.
He lost his lower right leg but remarkably, four years later, ran the London Marathon.
Lucy Walker, 46, from Thorpe Mariott, served as a corporal in the Royal Air Force.
She said: 'The report finally shows Tony Blair's arrogance in sending the military to war under false pretences.
'He has blood on his hands for those who lost their lives and for the servicemen who came back injured and whose lives have changed forever.
'I served at Basra Airport in 2003 and returned in January 2004 on a stretcher following an accident.
'After a lot of health issues I was medically discharged in 2007.
'Since my accident I have had a back operation, developed fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue and more recently PTSD. Thanks to Blair I lost everything I spent 17 years working for.
'As a serviceperson I knew I could go to war for my country and was happy to do it. However, because of his lies we were sent to a war that had nothing to do with protecting our country.
'We didn't help the Iraqi people either, as also confirmed in the report. I hope justice is served and the families of those who died find some peace.
'Tony Blair has a lot to answer for, his lies have ruined a lot of people's lives. I just wish I believed he will get his comeuppance.'