Lt Col Tim Collins, Officer Commanding the 1st Battalion Royal Irish
Regiment, influenced national opinion in the United States and Britain on the
eve of the second Gulf War when he made an impassioned speech to his 800 men.
President George W Bush had a copy of the speech printed, framed and hung in the
Oval Office. Prince Charles wrote a personal letter to Col Collins saying,
"I hope you will forgive me for writing in this way, but it made me so
proud to read what you said. It was in the highest traditions of military
leadership and I simply had to express my admiration."
Col Collins (he was promoted immediately following the War) was accused by a
US Army reservist Major of war crimes following the conflict; although the Royal
Military Police mounted a serious investigation of his claims, none of them were
ever substantiated, and it was even suggested that the Major was resentful
because Collins had disciplined him over spiteful comments regarding British
soldiers' jokes about American forces, and made the claims as a way to "get
back" at the colonel. Collins was cleared on 1 September 2003 by a military tribunal of any wrongdoing.
The speech was outstanding. Here it is in full:
We go to liberate not to conquer. We will not fly our flags in their country.
We are entering Iraq to free a people and the only flag which will be flown in
that ancient land is their own. Show respect for them. There are some who are
alive at this moment who will not be alive shortly. Those who do not wish to go
on that journey, we will not send. As for the others I expect you to rock their
world. Wipe them out if that is what they choose. But if you are ferocious in
battle remember to be magnanimous in victory.
Iraq is steeped in history. It is the site of the Garden of Eden, of the
Great Flood and the birthplace of Abraham. Tread lightly there. You will see
things that no man could pay to see and you will have to go a long way to find a
more decent, generous and upright people than the Iraqis. You will be
embarrassed by their hospitality even though they have nothing. Don't treat them
as refugees for they are in their own country. Their children will be poor, in
years to come they will know that the light of liberation in their lives was
brought by you.
If there are casualties of war then remember that when they woke up and got
dressed in the morning they did not plan to die this day. Allow them dignity in
death. Bury them properly and mark their graves. It is my foremost intention to
bring every single one of you out alive but there may be people among us who
will not see the end of this campaign. We will put them in their sleeping bags
and send them back. There will be no time for sorrow.
The enemy should be in no doubt that we are his nemesis and that we are
bringing about his rightful destruction. There are many regional commanders who
have stains on their souls and they are stoking the fires of hell for Saddam. He
and his forces will be destroyed by this coalition for what they have done. As
they die they will know their deeds have brought them to this place. Show them
It is a big step to take another human life. It is not to be done lightly. I
know of men who have taken life needlessly in other conflicts, I can assure you
they live with the mark of Cain upon them. If someone surrenders to you then
remember they have that right in international law and ensure that one day they
go home to their family. The ones who wish to fight, well, we aim to please.
If you harm the regiment or its history by over-enthusiasm in killing or in
cowardice, know it is your family who will suffer. You will be shunned unless
your conduct is of the highest for your deeds will follow you down through
history. We will bring shame on neither our uniform or our nation.
Regarding the use by Saddam of chemical or biological weapons. It is
not a question of if, it's a question of when. We know he has already devolved
the decision to lower commanders, and that means he has already taken the
decision himself. If we survive the first strike we will survive the attack.
As for ourselves, let's bring everyone home and leave Iraq a better place for
us having been there.
Our business now is north.