'I was on the frontline with our soldiers in Iraq. This is what I'll never forget'
19.03.2023 - 11:13
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the start of the Iraq war.
In the minds of many, it was a needless, unjust invasion founded on a claim - which proved to be wrong - that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
Many died, mostly Iraqis. The US lost an estimated 4,487 soldiers, while the UK lost 179 and other coalition forces lost 139. Figures for the number of Iraqis who died vary from between 90,000 to more than 600,000.
Among those to cross into Iraq two decades ago was M.E.N. reporter Martin Dillon, who was embedded with 7 Para. Here, he looks back at the grim day-to-day realities for our soldiers on the ground, and urges politicians to be '100 per cent the cause is just' before dispatching troops to battlefields abroad again.
I remember it as if it were yesterday. The noise was deafening and the ground shook as the artillery guns blasted their shells into the night sky.
The smell of cordite filled the air as the heavy weapons discharged their deadly munitions. In the distance I could see flashes of light as bombs dropped by the American war planes landed on their targets.
The Iraq War had started and I was on the front line on the Kuwait-Iraq border as an embedded journalist with 7 Para Royal Horse Artillery (7 Para RHA), which was supporting the US marines with its mighty firepower.
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Then began the longest night of my life as our convoy crossed over the border. As we lined up in our vehicles the cries of ‘gas, gas, gas’ over the radio, combined with the constant beep of horns on military vehicles, meant a possible chemical attack was imminent. My adrenalin was pumping.
At the time there was a fear that weapons of