UK

Chilcot report: The bereaved still looking for the truth

Cpl John Rigby Image copyright MOD
Image caption Cpl John Rigby suffered a severe head wound

Some of those looking closest at the Chilcot report into the Iraq War will be the families of British soldiers who died in the conflict.

Doug Rigby knew the moment he saw the uniformed figures at his gate. Why else would the army come to his home like this?

He and his wife Liz had two sons serving in Iraq, twins John and Will, both with the 4th Battalion The Rifles in Basra. "I said 'which one?' because we had the two boys out there," recalls Doug. "They confirmed it was John."

Image caption Doug Rigby knew as soon as he saw uniformed people at his gate

Cpl John Rigby's patrol had been caught by a roadside bomb and he suffered a devastating head wound. It was 22 June 2007, the twins' 24th birthday. Will held his brother's hand as he lay comatose in a military hospital. The family had to decide whether to switch off his life support machine.

"The prognosis was that even if John lived the brain injury was such that he would not be viable," says Doug. His wife Liz describes it as "a terrible decision to have to make".

After John's death Liz Rigby would walk in the woods close to the family home in East Sussex. These were days when the pain followed her through every waking moment. But in the Brede High woods, where the trees arch over the woodland path, she sometimes felt her dead son's presence. "I felt him on my right shoulder, walking through here… it was warm. It made me smile," she recalls.

For Liz and her husband Doug the Chilcot report must hold to account the politicians who sent their son to war. They are angry over the delay in the report's publication.

Image copyright MOD/GETTY
Image caption John Rigby and twin brother Will both served in Iraq

"It should have happened years ago… I think they hope that people will have forgotten about it, but we'll never forget about it," says Liz.

He initially believed the Blair government's justification for the war but the failure to find weapons of mass destruction has left him feeling bitter with the politicians. Doug's father fought in World War Two and his grandfather in the Great War. Both were wars in which Britain emerged militarily victorious.

"My grandfather fought in a war where the troops were lions led by donkeys, and the donkeys were the generals. I think the lads in Basra were called the lions of Basra and the donkeys were the politicians who sent them there in the first place."

Liz Rigby is deeply affected by the continuing violence in Iraq. "I think it's really sad it hasn't been sorted and it's still continuing and people are still dying. Really you can't put it to bed and say it's over… it's always there on the TV and in the newspapers. It's a reminder of John and what happened."

Image copyright MOD
Image caption Sgt John Jones was in a lightly armoured Snatch Land Rover

Carol Jones's son, Sgt John Jones, was killed in 2005 when his armoured Snatch Land Rover was blown up. The vehicles were too lightly armoured for the war conditions of Iraq. They were eventually withdrawn by the Ministry of Defence.

"They were there to do a job, they did the job," says Carol Jones. "It was very difficult for them with the equipment they got."

Like many relatives of the bereaved she is angry with former Prime Minister Tony Blair. "He should have gone down with Saddam," she states. For her the Chilcot report could represent a cathartic moment.

"I'm just hoping. I really do hope that we can close the book. I just hope Mr Chilcot gives us the truth."

The Chilcot report can answer questions about the decision to go war, the planning for the war's aftermath and the equipment given to the troops. It was not in his remit to decide on the legality of the war, or to recommend that political leaders be prosecuted for war crimes. Nor can he heal the wounds of families who have lost sons, brothers and fathers.

Carol Jones campaigned to have a memorial wall brought from Basra to the National Memorial Arboretum in the West Midlands. The wall bears brass plaques inscribed with the names of each of the 179 British servicemen and women killed in Iraq.

"This is where they belong, with their families. Their families can come down here and put flowers down, sit on the benches and just talk to their loved ones. It's so important. We got them back. They are not in Iraq anymore."

UK military fatalities

Full details of the 179 British servicemen and women who died