Bereaved families hold 24-hour vigil in Whitehall

Tuesday/Wednesday 18th/19th October 2005

Families of British soldiers killed in Iraq stepped up their demands for justice with a 24-hour vigil opposite the barricaded entrance to Downing Street. They are stepping up their demands for a full public enquiry into the conflict, which claimed its 97th British fatality as the protest was taking place. Two prominent mothers were Rose Gentle from Glasgow whose son Gordon was killed by a road-side bomb in Basra in June last year and Susan Smith from Tamworth, Staffordshire whose son Phillip was killed by a road-side bomb in July this year. Tents were erected opposite the sealed entrance to Downing Street. A number of prominent anti-war MPs came to offer support including Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn and Respect MP George Galloway.

Labour MP Claire Short, former overseas development minister, came to offer support on Thursday morning and accompanied some of the families to 10 Downing Street where they delivered a message to Tony Blair.

Military Families against the war (MFAW) are bringing an application for a judicial review under the human rights act. The families will argue that as the soldiers right to life has been interfered with they are entitled under UK and European Court of Human Rights case law to a fully independent and public enquiry. Thus if the case succeeds the resulting public enquiry would see senior ministers called for cross examination to include the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for defence and the Attorney General. The stakes will be high and while Rose was advised that was entitled to legal aid, numerous obstacles have been placed in her way. Without legal aid there is a considerable risk that Rose will be personally liable for thousands of pounds of costs if the government succeed. The government, presumably in an attempt to frighten off any action, have made it clear they intend to pursue the costs vigorously.

Donations are thus especially welcome and you can contact Rose Gentle by e-mail:

The website for Military Families against War is:

Rose Gentle explained that the protest was to end the occupation of Iraq, stop any future attacks on other countries such as Iran and to protest against the unfairness of being refused legal aid to fight their case for a judicial review. While the London protest was just for 24 hours Rose plans to set up longer protests in Scotland including one outside the Scottish Parliament.

There was a reasonable amount of media coverage with pieces in the Metro, the Daily Mirror, Daily Record, the Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald. There appeared to be nothing in the Guardian or London Evening Standard however. The protest was mentioned briefly on Radio Four’s `Today in Parliament` on Wednesday 19th October and I believe it was covered on Channel 5 news though the BBC website had no mention of it.

Here is what was reported in the Scotsman of Wednesday 19th October:

“Sending Another Young Kid To His Death”

19 Oct 2005 Scotsman

A mother whose son was killed fighting in Iraq said the death there of another British soldier made anti-war campaigners even angrier and more determined.

Rose Gentle, who was in Downing Street with Labour MP Clare Short to deliver a letter calling for the Government to get Parliamentary approval before declaring war, said Tony Blair should feel "guilty as hell".

Mrs Gentle's 19-year-old son Fusilier Gordon Gentle, from Glasgow, was killed in a roadside bombing in Basra in June 2004.

She said: "The more boys get killed the more angry we get because we shed a tear for them as well and their families.

"Every time you turn on the telly and see that another soldier has died it just reminds you of our own boys being killed.

"Mr Blair is sitting over there in Parliament and I hope he feels guilty as hell sending another young kid to his death."

Clutching a picture of her son and with tears in her eyes, Mrs Gentle explained that she was supporting Ms Short's Private Member's Bill because it meant people "would have to find out the truth about the war" before it was declared.

"Something stronger has to be done," she said.

"How many more boys getting killed out there is it going to take before Tony Blair says enough is enough?"

9 labelled photos of the protest are included along with 6 news clippings.

Lastly, let us not forget Brian Haw who has been on a one-man protest in London’s Parliament Square for 4 years and 4 months now. His website is:

3 labelled photos of his long running protest are also included.

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