Soldier says Army 'hung him out to dry'

The experience was to prove disastrous. It landed Guardsman McGing before a court martial jury charged with killing an Iraqi boy who drowned after being forced into a river within six months of his arrival in Basra. Now cleared of killing Ahmed Jabar Karheem, aged 15, Guardsman McGing reflected yesterday on how Iraq had destroyed the career he cherished. "The biggest problem for us was that there was no law and order and we were soldiers, not policemen," he said. "We hadn't been trained to do this."

For a time, the Army had offered brighter prospects for a teenager who attended cadets without fail and left the Britannia High School in Rowley Regis, near Birmingham, with minimal qualifications. He had aspired to be a soldier since boyhood and he passed over the Grenadier Guards - the regiment of choice for many West Midlands boys - in favour of the Irish Guards.

Guardsman McGing is reluctant to discuss the May 2003 incident for which he was tried. (He, Guardsman Joseph McCleary and Colour Sergeant Carle Selman were accused of forcing the boy, who could not swim, into the Shatt al-Basra canal at gunpoint to "teach him a lesson" for suspected looting.

In evidence, the boy's friend, who was also thrown in, claimed they were pelted with stones. But, like the soldiers who were tried and convicted over abuse at Camp Breadbasket two years ago, Guardsman McGing insists that by "wetting" insurgents he was carrying out new army policy. "The idea was that once they were wet they had to walk home to change their clothes," he said. "It stopped them looting. We were doing what we were told to do and being led to do."

At his home in Bootle, Merseyside, Guardsman McCleary provided a similar explanation this week. "Looters were everywhere, there were too many of them for us and it was difficult to know how to handle them," he said. "We were told to put them in the canal. I was the lowest rank. We were always told we weren't paid to think. We just followed orders. We had a job to do, and it was so hectic."

The National Gulf War Veterans Association (NGWVA) said the case had demonstrated how junior soldiers were being blamed for decisions taken by senior officers in a theatre of conflict where insurgency was out of hand.

"The generals seem to give the orders, the men carry them out and the men carry the can when it all goes wrong," said Charles Plumeridge of the NGWVA.

"I disagreed with a lot of orders, but you always carry them out anyway. We never see the senior brass in the dock. It was the same after Breadbasket. They're just the ones who come home to be decorated."

Guardsman McCleary is through with Army. "It's like being in a tunnel," he said. He plans to go to college and follow a civilian career. Guardsman McGing will join the police. "The Army hung me out to dry," he said. "They put me in court and led to this hanging over me and my family for three years. They just wanted to put me into prison."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?