By Frances Casey, Project Manager
Ten years ago this month, the UK mobilised 45,000 troops and combined forces with the United States, Australia and Poland in an invasion of Iraq which sought to depose the Ba’athist government of Saddam Hussein. On 20th March 2003, following an air-strike on the Iraqi Presidential Palace the previous day, coalition troops entered Iraq by land and water. The invasion was named ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ by the United States. The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) assigned it the computer generated name of ‘Operation TELIC’. This followed MOD policy to allocate non-political names to operations.
Today, the invasion and subsequent conflict is commonly known as the Iraq War. For UK forces, the war lasted for 6 years and 2 months, with UK combatant troops withdrawing on 22nd May 2009, whilst US troops withdrew later, on 18th December 2011. The war deployed 15,000 more UK troops than the 30,000 involved in the Falklands War and the UK suffered 179 service personnel casualties over the period of the war.
To date, we have recorded 76 memorials commemorating the Iraq War. These include new memorials that have been created for the purpose, such as a memorial erected in memory of Black Watch casualties at Balhousie Castle and a stone of remembrance to six members of 849 Aircrew who were killed when two Royal Navy Sea King helicopters collided on 22nd March 2003. Both of these memorials were erected in the UK during the war.
The names of Iraq War casualties have also been added to existing war memorials, including those in Workington, Cumbria; East Cowick, Yorkshire; Warrington, Cheshire; and Bridgend, Wales. A new civic memorial of six standing stones has been erected in Glenrothes, Scotland which includes the names of two casualties from Iraq. The town of Glenrothes was established in 1948 and the memorial is the first commemoration for casualties of the town.
Specific units have created new memorials or added the names of Iraq casualties to existing memorials. Casualties have been added to the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit memorial in Warwickshire and in Edinburgh, the regimental memorial to the 2nd Dragoons (Royal Scots Greys) lists the names of casualties of the regiment from the Boer War (1899-1902) to the Iraq War (2003-2009).
Civilian casualties of the Iraq War are also commemorated by memorials. In St Brides Church, Fleet Street, in London there is a memorial to the 18 journalists ‘who lost their lives while covering the war in Iraq AD 2003’. The roles listed on the memorial include cameramen, translators, a sound recordist and news correspondents. Amongst those named is ITN Middle East Correspondent Terry Lloyd, who was shot by US forces on 22nd March 2003, as he reported on the invasion.
The national memorial to UK Service casualties of the Iraq War was unveiled in the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire on 11th March 2010. This memorial takes the form of a wall mounted with 179 plaques with the name, regiment, date of death and age of each of the UK Service personnel and the one MOD civilian that died.
The original memorial wall was built in 2006 by troops stationed in Iraq, and had stood outside the HQ of Multi-National Division (South East) in Basra airbase. During the war, the wall and the plaques were a focus for remembrance for those serving. As discussions took place in 2008-9 to withdraw troops from Iraq, securing the future of the memorial was a concern for both families and troops, and it was decided to dismantle the wall when the troops withdrew. The bricks used for the original wall were found to be too soft for the UK climate, so a new memorial was devised which used the original bricks as the foundation and core of a memorial wall enclosed by marble.
The wall commemorates those Iraq War personnel who died as a result of accident or illness as well as those who died in the direct line of fire. It also lists members of the Coalition Forces who were killed whilst under UK command during the six years of conflict.
Ten years on, and number of memorials to the Iraq War is likely to increase. New memorials to casualties of the war are still being erected and the names of casualties continue to be added to existing community and regimental memorials.