Bomb detector could have saved soldier, says Army

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The Independent Online

A teenage soldier's death in Iraq could have been averted if his vehicle had been fitted with a device capable of detecting roadside bombs, an official report has admitted.

Gordon Gentle, 19, a Royal Highland Fusilier from Glasgow, was killed instantly when his convoy was hit by the blast in Basra on 28 June 2004.

His mother, Rose Gentle, 43, became an outspoken opponent of the war and a focal point for military families and others opposed to the conflict.

Yesterday an Army Board of Inquiry into the attack found that an electronic jamming device which could have stopped the device detonating had been available for two weeks but had not been installed on his vehicle.

The board's report stated: "A Task Issue order for the unit to collect the new equipment had been issued a fortnight prior to the incident, but was not received by 1 RHF [the 1st Battalion, the Royal Highland Fusiliers]." The report said the supply chain had been improved, with extra telephone calls and e-mail contact to ensure that equipment was collected promptly.

Mrs Gentle said: "If they had fitted this electronic jamming device, my son would still be alive today. I hold them fully responsible. Gordon was killed by neglect and I'm not prepared to let this go."

The report also highlighted the fact that the body armour issued to Fusilier Gentle had been appropriate but could have offered better protection. As a result new body armour has been issued to troops.

John Reid, the Defence Secretary, said: "Sadly, nothing can change what happened to Fusilier Gentle but I hope the report will help his family and friends better understand the events of that day.

"While every possible precaution is taken to protect service personnel, the unfortunate reality is that ... military operations are dangerous."