Lance-Corporal Brian Wooden received the Army Cross for bravery in Iraq — solely to be smeared as a battle legal 9 years later. Within the first a part of our serialisation of his memoirs on Saturday, he instructed of his sense of betrayal. Right here, within the ultimate extract, he remembers his wrongful persecution by compensation-hungry British attorneys . . .

The second of reality had arrived. As the general public inquiry into alleged mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by British troopers started in London in 2013, I used to be repeatedly instructed I used to be not a defendant and this was not a trial.

However the picket dock I used to be sitting in seemed just about like a dock you’d see in a court docket of regulation. It was troublesome to not suppose I used to be on trial right here. I scanned the busy room and will see the simply recognisable determine of Phil Shiner, the human rights lawyer who had pressed so laborious for this inquiry.

He represented six Iraqis who claimed British troopers — me amongst them — attacked them on the Battle of Danny Boy in 2004 after they had been nothing greater than harmless farmers going about their lawful enterprise, after which maltreated them after they had been in custody.

Brian Wood, pictured returning home to his family after touring Afghanistan

Brian Wood, pictured returning home to his family after touring Afghanistan

Brian Wooden, pictured returning dwelling to his household after touring Afghanistan

They had been additionally claiming 20 detainees taken again to the British base at Abu Naji for interrogation had been murdered. Shiner had a fame because the gold commonplace of solicitors. Named human rights lawyer of the yr in 2004 and the Legislation Society’s solicitor of the yr in 2007, he had beforehand taken on the Authorities in mistreatment circumstances and received.

I had nothing to cover, however no marvel I used to be nervous.

The chairman, Sir Thayne Forbes, a former Excessive Courtroom choose, took his place. The one factor I knew about him was that he was the choose for the trial of the serial killer Dr Harold Shipman. It didn’t appear a optimistic omen.

‘Good morning, Color Sergeant,’ he started — my rank now, although I used to be a Lance-Corporal when the occasions we had been about to go over occurred — and his well mannered manner put me extra relaxed.

Phil Shiner, human rights lawyer

Phil Shiner, human rights lawyer

Phil Shiner, human rights lawyer

However I felt below stress — extra in that inquiry room than after I was a junior commander out within the desert and a dozen or extra insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenades, Kalashnikovs and machine-guns had been making an attempt to kill me and my males.

He reassured me once more that this was an inquiry and never a trial, however stated my proof can be given on oath — which appeared odd to me if it wasn’t a trial. Sat in that field with everybody trying up at me, it was nearly unimaginable to not really feel daunted as questioning started. Prompted by the lawyer for the inquiry — in impact, the prosecuting counsel — I started to offer my account of what had occurred at Danny Boy, a checkpoint within the Iraqi desert the place my Warrior armoured troop service was ambushed again in 2004.

I’d been awarded the Army Cross in my view in that battle, and congratulated by the Queen.

Now I felt unnerved because the lawyer homed in on each small element after which picked over it. Did I keep in mind this? The place exactly was I when that occurred? All of this had been coated in my written assertion to the inquiry, however he requested me anyway. I might really feel myself getting irritated.

However I knew I needed to maintain my composure. I’d give him my reply, he’d ask once more and I’d give him the identical reply once more. It was like strolling by way of a minefield.

In that inquiry room, I felt belittled and humiliated. I used to be having my experiences taken aside by somebody who merely didn’t perceive the confusion of a battlefield. For instance, he saved on about whether or not, after I exited the Warrior troop service to interact the enemy, I’d gone left or proper.

I couldn’t keep in mind for positive, hardly stunning given the noise from weapons and rockets, the velocity of the motion and that I used to be overvalued on adrenaline. He hadn’t a clue what it was prefer to be outnumbered and combating in your life, but right here he was cross-questioning me on the minutest element.

He produced a diagram I’d drawn of the incident and requested whether or not the irrigation ditches I’d proven wherein the insurgents had been hiding and taking pictures at us had been U or V- formed. He requested about timings, as if, in the course of a gunfight, I used to be checking my watch each couple of minutes.

He needed certainty in regards to the variety of enemy we confronted when, on the time, it was unimaginable to say. His line of questioning was based mostly on a misunderstanding of what a wartime scenario is like. The extra he requested, the extra my ‘sure’ and ‘no’ responses had been being combined up with ‘I don’t know’ and ‘I can’t keep in mind’.

A few of my solutions contradicted statements of others concerned within the motion, and he seized on these, although it was completely pure for folks in such intense conditions to have totally different recollections.

Brian Wood collecting his MC at Buckingham Palace with his wife Lucy and parents

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Brian Wood collecting his MC at Buckingham Palace with his wife Lucy and parents

Brian Wooden accumulating his MC at Buckingham Palace along with his spouse Lucy and fogeys

He put to me an allegation from one of many Iraqi prisoners we took that he was kicked whereas blindfolded and handcuffed on the ground. A second detainee stated that troopers pushed his head laborious onto the bottom, stepped on him and dragged him by his ankles.

A 3rd alleged he’d been kicked within the chest and struck on the pinnacle with a rifle.

I’d seen nothing of the type, I stated. It didn’t occur. On a purely sensible stage, there merely wasn’t time. And hitting somebody with a rifle butt would solely sluggish us down and put us in additional hazard.

He requested me in regards to the handcuffing of the prisoners and whether or not I’d checked in the event that they had been too tight. ‘I can’t keep in mind,’ I replied however inside my head I used to be considering: Why are we even discussing this? I used to be a British soldier combating for my nation, defending and serving this nice nation and you might be questioning me about how I utilized a handcuff. You cuff them to allow them to’t pull a quick one. If it’s a bit tight, properly, powerful s***.

I recall glancing on the Ministry of Defence lawyer and my lawyer and questioning why they weren’t stepping in to inform the inquiry this was commonplace process. However they stated nothing, leaving me alone, defending Military coverage.

You see, it’s not laborious for civilians to sit down in an air-conditioned inquiry room years after the occasion and make feedback about plasticuffs and blindfolds and insinuate that our behaviour was brutal and barbaric. However the lack of information they confirmed of what it was like actually being in that scenario, and the context of how the Military carries out its directions, that was really stunning. Battle isn’t a contract negotiation. You’re not sat there calmly dotting each final ‘i’ and crossing each final ‘t’ till an settlement is reached. You’re below menace. You’re below fireplace. A bullet or a grenade or piece of shrapnel might kill or maim you at any second.

Brian Wood pictured on patrol with 4 Platoon B Company in Helmand in 2012

Brian Wood pictured on patrol with 4 Platoon B Company in Helmand in 2012

Brian Wooden pictured on patrol with four Platoon B Firm in Helmand in 2012

You depend on intestine and intuition to get you thru, do what it’s important to do to be able to survive. That’s the fundamentals of what being a soldier is all about. That’s what it felt as if I used to be defending.

And that’s what I felt as if nobody in that inquiry room correctly understood.

My ordeal in that dock worsened as the following lawyer started his inquisition. Steven Powles was representing the six Iraqi complainants and went on the assault straightaway.

He needed to know why, when the enemy had surrendered and we collected up their weapons, we had not made any effort to hyperlink any specific weapon with a specific detainee. It was completely lacking the purpose. Within the form of scenario we had been in — having dashed throughout open floor by way of a hail of bullets and leaping into their trench — our sole precedence was to get all their weapons, unload them and make them protected. You don’t begin making an inventory of which rifle belongs to whom.

Then he needed to know if I’d strengthened my instructions to the prisoners ‘with any use of bodily power or violence’.

I shook my head. Nor had I seen any of the opposite troopers I used to be with hit or kick them.

I maintained eye contact with Powles throughout these exchanges, giving him a very good straight eyeball as if to say no, I’m not afraid of you. His questioning appeared intentionally designed to attempt to journey me up, and I didn’t prefer it.

Brian Wood receiving the Military Cross. 'As the Queen pinned the medal on my chest, she said it was rare for her to hand out such awards. She told me to wear it with pride, and I promised I would'

Brian Wood receiving the Military Cross. 'As the Queen pinned the medal on my chest, she said it was rare for her to hand out such awards. She told me to wear it with pride, and I promised I would'

Brian Wooden receiving the Army Cross. ‘Because the Queen pinned the medal on my chest, she stated it was uncommon for her at hand out such awards. She instructed me to put on it with satisfaction, and I promised I might’

He picked up on a discrepancy within the assertion I’d given instantly after the battle after I stated I solely remembered killing two insurgents when the truth is there have been six lifeless. ‘Is the fact,’ he requested, ‘that you just don’t need to inform this inquiry how the opposite 4 died?’

Wow, I believed. You’ve obtained some nerve, throwing such critical allegations about with none proof to again them up.

His insinuations had been implying that the statements I’d given had been someway cooked up, and my accounts of what occurred weren’t to be believed.

‘No, under no circumstances,’ I replied firmly.

All this left me annoyed, however indignant, too. With full impunity, he’d been allowed to face up and make all types of accusations towards me, name me a liar, a assassin and the whole lot in between.

There within the dock, I felt fairly remoted and ridiculed as the remainder of the room seemed on and listened to me making an attempt to defend myself.

At the very least, after they obtained their probability, my lawyer and the MoD lawyer redressed among the steadiness and put what had occurred at Danny Boy into a correct army context.

The MoD lawyer listed the weapons we’d seized that day — grenade launchers, belts of ammunition, 5 or 6 AK47 rifles and a machine-gun.

Brian Wood as a schoolboy

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Brian Wood as a schoolboy

Brian Wooden as a schoolboy

‘That’s appropriate,’ I stated. This quantity of weaponry demonstrated this had not been an opportunity encounter however that we’d been lured right into a well-organised ambush.

After we took the insurgents prisoner, did they’ve any implements similar to spades or sickles, which could counsel that they had been farmers, as they claimed?

‘No,’ I replied, making an attempt to maintain a straight face on the ridiculousness of all of it. ‘There have been no picks or shovels, no tractors or something like that, or cattle. It was simply them and their weapons.’

And fortunately at that time my ordeal within the dock was over. The inquiry chairman thanked me and wished me properly for the longer term and I used to be dismissed.

I used to be exhausted after the hours of questioning and being made to relive issues I didn’t need to relive. I had spent troublesome years coming to phrases with the trauma of battle — the concern, killing, corpses — and now it had all been resurrected.

My lawyer reassured me that I had dealt with myself with nice dignity and offered myself properly. I used to be instructed I’d be notified the place issues would go subsequent, and went again to my regiment in Germany.

It was now a ready recreation — for all of the proof to be collected, the remaining witnesses to be interviewed and the inquiry to go its judgment on what actually occurred that day in Iraq.

BY THE time the decision got here, I had left the Military and brought up a place with the safety agency, Management Dangers, offering shut safety for U.S. oil executives, in Iraq of all locations, again the place all of it started.

It was simply over 4 months after my questioning when, on the last-but-one day of the listening to, there was a devastating shock — counsel for the Iraqi complainants withdrew essentially the most critical accusation of all, that prisoners taken at Danny Boy had been murdered by British troopers.

Phil Shiner’s agency issued an announcement: ‘Following the conclusion of the army proof and present state of disclosure by the MoD, it’s our view there may be inadequate materials to determine that Iraqi civilians had been unlawfully killed while within the custody of British troops at Camp Abu Naji.’

It was a rare climbdown and undermined their entire case. If essentially the most critical of the accusations towards British forces weren’t true, what did that imply for the remainder of them? Proof from quite a few Iraqi witnesses had apparently ‘been clarified’ and ‘considerably weakened’.

In plain English slightly than legalese, it had been deemed unreliable. Which meant, in flip, that, because the MoD attorneys put it, the complete factual foundation upon which the inquiry was predicated was unfaithful.

9 months later, the ultimate report of the inquiry was launched, summing up 169 days of hearings, proof from 55 Iraqi witnesses and 222 service personnel, and additional written statements from one other 328 witnesses. The report ran to greater than 1,200 pages.

In it, the chairman, Sir Thayne Forbes, concluded that ‘the overwhelming majority of the allegations made towards the British army had been wholly and fully with out benefit or basis’.

With out benefit or basis. Wow. I needed to learn that twice and pinch myself to verify I’d learn it proper.

Forbes went on: ‘Very lots of these baseless allegations had been the product of deliberate and calculated lies on the a part of those that made them, and who then gave proof to this inquiry to be able to assist and perpetuate them.

‘Different false allegations had been the results of inappropriate and reckless hypothesis on the a part of witnesses.’

That, although, was only for starters. ‘The strategy of the detainees and of quite a few different Iraqi witnesses to the giving of their proof was each unprincipled within the excessive and wholly with out regard for the reality.’

As damning as Forbes was of the Iraqi witnesses, he was additionally filled with reward for the army ones like me. ‘On the whole I discovered the army witnesses to be each truthful and dependable. They used their greatest endeavours to recall particulars of occasions that had occurred almost a decade beforehand.

‘The proof clearly confirmed that the British troopers responded to this lethal ambush with exemplary braveness, decision and professionalism.

‘The work of this inquiry has established past doubt that each one essentially the most critical allegations made towards the British troopers concerned within the Battle of Danny Boy and its aftermath, and which have been hanging over these troopers for the final ten years [are] wholly with out basis and fully the product of deliberate lies, reckless hypothesis and ingrained hostility.’

I felt a weight lifting off my shoulders. For the inquiry to give you these conclusions, backing up the whole lot I’d stated, was an enormous launch.

The inquiry did uphold among the extra minor claims of mistreatment. It steered, for instance, that the detainees ought to have been given correct food and drinks after they had been first detained.

That was a bit dig at me for refusing to offer a prisoner water when returning to base behind the Warrior, on the grounds (as I’d instructed the inquiry) that we had a restricted quantity left and I used to be preserving it again in case my males wanted it.

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Trying again, I can see this was flawed and I ought to have let him have a drink. There have been additionally criticisms in regards to the tightness of {the handcuffs}, however these had been minor in comparison with the bigger accusations of mistreatment and torture.

The inquiry had value £31 million, and I felt unhealthy, in an odd method, that a lot cash out of the general public purse had been spent on it. However above all, I felt aid that the reality was on the market and the cleaning soap opera of feelings I’d been by way of over these years was lastly coming to an finish.

As I instructed the Each day Mail in an interview on the time: ‘We’ve got been dragged by way of years of hell and that, in my opinion, is a betrayal of our service. We did what we needed to do as troopers and we did the appropriate factor.’

Within the Home of Commons, the Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, was sharply essential of each the Iraqi witnesses and their authorized workforce: ‘The Iraqi detainees, their accomplices and their attorneys should bear the brunt of the criticism for the protracted nature of this inquiry.’

He challenged Phil Shiner to problem an unequivocal apology to the troopers whose reputations he tried to traduce — which he has by no means executed.

Fallon added: ‘The fame of our Armed Forces will survive the baseless slurs of those that search to undermine these on whom all of us rely.’

This, for me, was actual lump-in-the-throat stuff. After sitting in that inquiry room, feeling remoted and frolicked to dry by the MoD, it was good to lastly hear them coming down on our facet.

And never solely defending us, however acknowledging the bravery that we’d proven in that battle.

The highlight now shifted to Shiner. The Authorities produced proof that his agency of solicitors had had misgivings over the credibility of its shoppers, however left it a full 12 months earlier than withdrawing the allegations of illegal killing on the very finish of the inquiry.

It additionally claimed that they had used a ‘fixer’ or agent in Iraq, who had made what it described as ‘unsolicited approaches’ to potential victims.

The results of this deeply unethical course of had been an explosion within the variety of circumstances Shiner’s agency had filed towards British forces — greater than 1,000 judicial assessment claims in whole.

The Authorities pushed for Shiner to be struck off as a solicitor. In 2016, his agency closed, asserting it will not act for 187 Iraqi claimants it was representing and wouldn’t deliver ahead an extra 1,000 circumstances that it had been aspiring to lodge.

Charged by the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority, he admitted 9 counts of appearing with out integrity and certainly one of appearing recklessly.

In a letter to the disciplinary tribunal, he admitted paying a fixer greater than £25,000 in referral charges to attempt to discover shoppers, and that he had doctored proof in an try and cowl his tracks.

He additionally admitted to paying a witness to vary their proof within the Danny Boy inquiry.

He was struck off as a solicitor, and I used to be happy. He appeared to have gotten into his head the concept that the British Military had been b******s to a person and that he was going to deliver them down.

He’d dragged folks like me by way of years of hell. Now he’d by no means be capable of do this once more.He by no means apologised. Even when he did now, I believe it’s too late. There was a time and a spot to take action, and he determined to not. I believe he’s heartless and a coward for not having executed so.

The distinction with the bravery proven by the troops at Danny Boy couldn’t be sharper.

My agency perception stays that the general public inquiry ought to by no means have occurred within the first place. These preliminary accusations ought to have been completely investigated behind closed doorways, to establish that there wasn’t a case to be introduced.

One of many detainees claimed he had been out grazing cows on the battlefield when the motion occurred. One other stated he’d been there shopping for 40 litres of yoghurt for a marriage.

It was ridiculous. Somebody ought to have checked out these items firstly and stated: ‘There’s nothing to this.’

Having the accusations on the market, and given credence by the general public inquiry, tarnished our names, tarnished the regiment, tarnished our achievements. Mud sticks.

My life has moved on. I’ve a very good job in Civvy Road and spend as a lot time as I can with my household.

However the mere proven fact that the Authorities allowed that inquiry to occur in any respect nonetheless makes me really feel indignant. It was an entire betrayal.

  • Tailored from Double Crossed by Brian Wooden, printed by Virgin Books on February 21 at £20. © Brian Wooden 2019. To order a replica for £16 (provide legitimate till February 25, 2019; P&P free), go to mailshop. co.uk/books or name 0844 571 0640.

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