5 February 2007 :
MP praises bravery of British troops
Wrekin MP, Mark Pritchard, has praised Shropshire’s “fine young men and women” who are serving the Armed Forces “all over the world with great professionalism and courage” following a week long visit to Iraq in which the MP met with soldiers from 19th Light Brigade who are leading the UK-led multi-national force in Basra and Southern Iraq.
During his visit the MP witnessed first hand the dangers British troops are in “every single hour of every single day” from IEDs (improvised explosive devices); mortars; small arms fire; and rocket propelled grenades. The MP said that the bravery of British troops was “both humbling and a source of national pride”. He confirmed that within ten minutes of touching down in a Hercules military plane by night, in order to avoid attacks from insurgents, the main air base at Basrah was being mortared. The MP said it was his first experience of “incoming live fire” and that it “did not have much appeal”.
During the week the MP met soldiers from the Queens Royal Lancers who patrol the Maysaan district, the 38th Royal Engineers who deal with unexploded ordinance and reconstruction; the 1st Staffordshire Regiment based at the Shatt Al Arab Hotel; and the Royal Green Jackets and Yorkshire Regiment based at the Battle Group headquarters based at Basrah Palace.
During his visit the MP met Shropshire residents Lance Corporal Scott Bloomer serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps and with Flight Lieutenant Sarah Harrison who is serving in the RAF. The Mp said “they are both a credit to their families and the County”.
The MP was visiting with three other MPs as part of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme in which he serves in the Army.
Mr Pritchard said:
“The visit ranged from briefings with senior military staff to going out on Warrior Patrols and Snatch Landrover patrols at sub-unit level”.
The MP patrolled in Ad Dayr and other central Basra locations, including the notorious Old State Buildings where there are daily rocket and sniper attacks.
In a “mind focusing moment” the MP told of his Warrior Armoured Vehicle breaking down in a hostile area of Basra due to a fuel pump problem. Thankfully, the breakdown was dealt with by the crew within a few minutes.
Broken down vehicles have often been the prelude to many fierce fights as insurgents surround broken down vehicles, which the MP claims: “justifies the need to keep the Army Base Repair Organisation (ABRO) base open at Donnington for the long term so that vehicles can be properly repaired”.
The MP confirmed that his visit had given him “new and unique insights” into the challenges British troops face on the frontline including other equipment delays, malfunctions and shortages. He confirmed that he would be writing to Des Browne MP, the Defence Secretary, about the “many tales of equipment shortages” whom he claimed “were unnecessarily putting British troops in harms way”.
The MP said: “The UK media is very focused on Baghdad but the threat to UK personnel is just as real in Basra”.
The MP confirmed that during his visit over forty rockets and mortars had landed inside UK bases. He heaped praise on “the bravery, dedication and professionalism” of all the British soldiers he had met.