Colonel Tim Collins, whose stirring eve-of-battle speech in the Iraq war made him a household name, has resigned from the Army claiming political correctness and underfunding are crippling the military.
The cigar-chomping commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment, earned international plaudits when he urged troops to be "ferocious in battle... magnanimous in victory".
But weeks later his reputation was called into question when an American army reservist accused him of mistreating Iraqi prisoners of war.
While sources close to the 43-year-old Belfast-born officer insisted yesterday that he had long been considering retirement from the Army, the ensuing investigation undoubtedly left a bitter aftertaste.
Colonel Collins was later exonerated, promoted and awarded an OBE but his wife, Caroline, said yesterday that a major factor in her husband's decision to resign was that he felt the Army had failed to support him when he was accused.
Speaking from their Canterbury home, she added: "Tim is no longer convinced that the Army reflects the country with the fourth largest economy in the world. He fears it is becoming a cottage industry.
"He's worried it is being crippled by political correct-ness, petty bureaucracy and the refusal of politicians who send British soldiers to war to give them enough money to do their job."
After 22 years in the Army, the father-of-five, who moved to a senior staff job at the British Army Land Headquarters in Salisbury last year, is expected to leave this summer for a career in leadership and management training.
Last night a friend said: "I think he just made a simple career choice. He is very much a soldier's soldier. Looking ahead at a succession of desk jobs and looking at the prospects outside the army, he made a choice."
Colonel Collins was accused by Major Re Biastreof the US 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion, which was attached to the British 16th Air Assault Brigade, under Colonel Collins, of mistreating prisoners of war, pistol-whipping a Baath party official and shooting the tyres of a lorry driven by looters.
But the Army's Special Investigations Branch found no evidence he had breached the Geneva Convention, concluding the charges against him were based on hearsay and could not be corroborated. The Colonel, known to his men as "Nails" and unafraid to shoot verbally from the hip, had previously disciplined the American, a part-time traffic policeman.
Before the inquiry, Colonel Collins said he feared the Army would be turned into a "Home Guard", saying: "The Army is not being protected from societal forces and trendy opinions and political correctness.
"I am not saying we should not have the highest standards of conduct. I personally take any suggestion of abuse of our position very seriously. But in the context of people dying around us, we should not and must not be judged by civilian rules."
Yesterday a Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "We are not commenting on what might be Colonel Collins' reasons for resigning, that is a private matter. [But] with respect to the "Home Guard" that is quite clearly not the case. It is quite evident from all the operations ongoing across the world, our commitment to operations in the global theatre [remains]."
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