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Frontline Troops 'Had Only Five Bullets To Defend Themselves'
Jun 17, 2003
Source: The Telegraph
Some British troops sent to the front line in Iraq were issued with only five rounds of ammunition, soldiers have told visiting MPs. James Gray, whose North Wiltshire constituency contains a large number of Army garrisons, said soldiers from the Royal Logistics Corps were given so little ammunition that they pooled it to give those on the front line more.
The disclosure comes amid suggestions of a radical Ministry of Defence overhaul of its Defence Logistics Organisation as a result of the problems in getting sufficient equipment to the troops in Iraq.
Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, complained to the Commons defence committee last month that reports of equipment shortages on the front line were inaccurate.
He has since been contradicted by a number of senior officers who have reported severe shortages of equipment, with some troops being issued with desert clothing and boots only after the war was won.
Mr Gray, who has just returned from a fact-finding visit to southern Iraq, said he was shocked to discover that some frontline British soldiers were given such small amounts of ammunition.
Drivers from the Royal Logistics Corps who were delivering fuel to the front line were given so few bullets that colleagues who were not moving forward pooled their ammunition to help protect those who were.
"It's pretty silly to be given just five bullets in case you are shot at," Mr Gray said. "It's all or nothing really and with five bullets you may as well have nothing.
"The MoD will say they were not going to be involved in action at the front line and it's true they were never shot at, but it's just as well. To be given that amount is quite outrageous."
Mr Hoon told the committee that despite the press reports, "all the requisite numbers of boots and clothing and equipment were there".
He added: "I am still waiting to see any signs of apology from either individual journalists or from their editors."
But Air Marshal Brian Burridge, the British commander in the Gulf, told the committee that the complaints were justified.
"The logistics organisations would say we held the stock appropriate for the planning assumptions and that additional boots were ordered," he said.
"But I was in Basra on April 23 [two weeks after the fall of Baghdad] and people were still wearing black boots. The boots were just arriving in theatre at that point."
Air Marshal Burridge also told the committee that the arrival of "desertised" Challenger 2 tanks was "a close thing" and that the communications systems were "inadequate".
His complaints were supported by his chief of staff, Maj Gen Peter Wall, GOC 1 Armoured Brigade, who said: "It is self-evident that we didn't have enough equipment for the desert readily available for the size of the force brought here."
The MoD said it was unaware of any problems with ammunition supplies "but local directions may have been issued regarding the amount of ammunition given out in some areas".