Heroic ex-serviceman tells of concerns for legacy of friends he lost in war

Simon Brown.
Simon Brown.
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A heroic ex-serviceman who was all-but blinded and suffered serious facial injuries in Iraq has said he hopes the Chilcot Report will not make “scapegoats” of the British troops.

Simon Brown, 37, from Morley, was shot in the face on December 6, 2006, during an attempt to rescue six colleagues whose vehicle had broken down on the outskirts of the southern city of Basra. He fears the report could place unfair blame on rank and file soldiers for mistakes made in the conflict by the United Kingdom and its allies.

He said: “I’m just concerned that what is in the report is going to be negative.

“It’s a worry that people don’t appreciate the tough job that we as the military had to do out there in very difficult circumstances. I think we were treated harshly by public opinion in some cases at the beginning and I’m just hoping that we don’t end up as scapegoats now.

“I lost a lot of good mates out there and I don’t want their legacies to be dragged through the mud. We went out with a job to do and we did it just as professionally as we could. I think we achieved some good stuff out there.

“The problem came with the planning of what to do next after Saddam Hussein had been deposed. I don’t think anyone expected the fighting to be over as quickly as it was and we just didn’t have the resources to carry on from there as we needed to.

“I totally understand why people want answers, I understand their anger. We all deal with grief in different ways.

“I have got to believe, though, that the lives of my friends were not wasted, that what happened to me was not a waste, otherwise that could destroy me.

“I have got to believe that someone benefited. On the 10th anniversary of the invasion I had a conversation with quite a high-level Iraqi academic whose parents had been exiled but they were eventually able to go back and vote for the first time. He was someone that thanked the British forces.”

The former Royal Engineer, who was chosen to carry the 2012 Olympic torch through the streets of Morley, now works for Blind Veterans UK.

It is a charity which cares for those who are blinded in service as well as veterans who lose their sight.

For further information about its work, visit www.blindveterans.org.uk or ring 0800 389 7979.