It is often unwise to write something when one is either angry or upset. It is probably very unwise to write when one is feeling both. I am feeling both now. I have just listened to two back to back interviews on the PM programme. One by the Minister for the Armed Forces and then one with the father of the late Captain James Philippson. I declare an interest. I knew James. Or rather Jim as his friends knew him. We went to the same school and James was in the same year as my younger brother. I got to know him when I was a prefect and he was a cheeky boisterous young lad. He had boundless energy and a great sense of fun. As he grew up he also developed a passion for the army. Jim died in service to the country he loved and is buried in the beautiful grounds of St Albans Cathedral near the school which formed both our characters. Jim was the first British death in Afghanistan.
The inquest into Jim's death reported earlier today. A summary can be seen here BBC . But the basic result is that Jim would be alive today had he had the most basic of equipment. The assistant coroner for Oxfordshire said, "They (the soldiers) were defeated not by the terrorists but by the lack of basic equipment." He said that to send soldiers into combat without weaponry and night vision kit was "unforgivable and inexcusable" and "a breach of trust between the soldiers and those who govern them".
And he is right. The Minister sought to brush it all aside by saying that all is well now. That simply is not good enough. It has been found that the Government sent British soldiers to their deaths and that they would otherwise be alive if they had been given basic equipment. And they were repeatedly warned that this was the case. Someone at the Ministry of Defence must pay a price for this. A Minister should do the honourable thing and resign. Of course I don't expect that will happen but I think today is one of the rare times when it would be legitimate and right for the opposition to call for the resignation of the accountable Minister in the MOD.
Jim's family and friends set up a trust fund in his memory. Details are here Jim Philippson Trust Fund.