Soldiers families go on attack

Relatives of soldiers serving in Iraq are to march on No 10 for the first time, in protest against the war

They are to lobby Downing Street next week, making Tony Blair the first serving Prime Minister of modern times to be lobbied by military families for the withdrawal of British troops from action overseas.

The protests on 26 April are expected to involve more than 40 close relatives of soldiers posted to Iraq and Afghanistan and relatives of the 103 British personnel killed in Iraq, as well as four Iraq veterans. Among them will be 11 parents and children of men serving or about to be deployed in the Gulf, in Guards regiments, the infantry regiments, special operations forces and airborne units.

The families are due to hand in to Mr Blair at No 10 an anti-war petition that also calls for the Prime Minister to meet the families of dead soldiers, following a lobby of MPs at the House of Commons. The petition has already been signed by more than 80 people with military ties.

One mother, Linda Holmes, told The Independent on Sunday she would be protesting because the invasion was illegal. "We shouldn't be there in the first place. The Iraqis don't want us there. We are an occupying force," she said.

Until now, the families of serving personnel have held back from publicly attacking Britain's presence in Iraq. Criticisms of Mr Blair's policies in the Gulf have previously been dominated by the parents and wives of British troops killed there.

But last week, an RAF doctor, Flt Lt Malcolm Kendall-Smith, became the first serving officer to be convicted and jailed after a court martial for refusing to serve in Iraq because, he claimed, the invasion was illegal.

The 26 April protests will echo increasingly vocal complaints by military families in the United States, where one mother, Cindy Sheehan, built a "peace camp" outside President Bush's ranch in Texas in 2004. Ms Sheehan's campaign group of 48 parents of US troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, is protesting at the ranch in Crawford this weekend.

President Bush was forced late on Friday to issue a personal statement backing his Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, after a chorus of complaints from retired US generals over the handling of Iraq. In Britain, discontent among Army wives about the continuing conflict in Iraq is also surfacing in internet chatrooms. Several mothers are repeatedly sending emails to the Prime Minister, complaining about Britain's involvement.

Denise, a former civil servant, said: "We're in their country as invaders. That's not what my son thinks. He says it's bad out there and these people need help. So I think sometimes we've gone out there like the Red Cross."

The grandmother of two British soldiers, one who has just served in Iraq and another who is going to Afghanistan, asked not to be named, for fear of repercussions against her grandsons. "This isn't for Queen and country," she said. "This war is unfair, unjust and illegal. It's not that our soldiers are cowards, or their parents and grandparents aren't proud, I just don't want to see their uniforms on a coffin."

Mary, the mother of a 19-year-old private from south-west England who came back from Iraq last week, said: "When my son was 16, he wanted to join the Army. We're extremely proud, and we want him to stay in the Army. But we definitely don't want my son to fight in 'President' Blair's and President Bush's oil war. He's not a mercenary."

Her son does not share her views: "He's what the army would call a very good soldier. He says, 'I'm a soldier. I don't have any political opinions.'"

Some names in this article have been changed


Linda Holmes, a medical secretary from Warwickshire, has a son in the Grenadier Guards, Guardsman Robert Holmes, 24: "I think it's an illegal war. Initially, because Robert wasn't really connected with Iraq at the time, I was very complacent. Once he announced he was going out I thought, I can't stand idly by, because there were all those deaths which were coming to the surface around that time. This is my personal view. It's not Robert's, but we live in a democracy. I have the right to say what I feel. I just hope that Robert doesn't get any backlash for this."



The 19-year-old son of Janet Lowrie, from Dumbarton, Scotland, Pte Peter McCallum of the Highlanders Regiment, completes six months in Iraq this week: "He's going for a full career in the Army but we want them all to leave, every one. They're not allowed to say much. They're doing their jobs, bless them. But every solitary one of us in our family wants him home. Some have to stay to help get the country back in shape, but the Iraqis aren't interested in them all being there. Peace isn't going to happen when they've got thousands of men standing there with guns."


Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Mystery man: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in '‘Gone Girl'
films... by the director David Fincher
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
stoptober... when the patch, gum and cold turkey had all failed
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

LSA Level 3 required in Caerphilly

£50 - £60 per day + plus Travel Scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job: O...

Welsh Year 6 Teacher required in Barry

£100 - £110 per day + Plus travel scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job:...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Welsh Teacher Year 2 required in Caerphilly

£100 - £105 per day + plus Travel Scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job:...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?