It was a day of reckoning a long time in the making, when anguish hardened into anger, and a sense of relief was matched by a certainty that retribution must surely follow.
On an emotionally charged day which brought to an end their seven-year wait for answers into Britain’s vexed invasion of Iraq, the loved ones of Britain’s fallen yesterday vowed to continue their fight for justice.
The families of some of the 179 Britons killed during the eight year-long conflict were silent as they sat in the front seven rows of London’s QE2 Conference Centre to hear Sir John Chilcot deliver a scathing appraisal of Britain’s involvement in the war.
READ MORE: [http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/chilcot-report-main-points-at-a-glance-1-4170585|Chilcot report: Main points at a glance}
The relatives gave a polite round of applause at the end of his address before reconvening to consider their impact. It will take even longer to pore over the 2.6 million words of Sir John’s report. What immediate thoughts they shared were trained almost exclusively on former Prime Minister Tony Blair, a man who, for many relatives, is to blame.
The kin of those Scots lost were among those who reserved the most vitriolic appraisal of Mr Blair’s role in the invasion.
Why did you kill my son, send my son to be killed?Rose Gentle, mother of Gordon Gentle who died in Iraq
Rose Gentle, whose 19-year-old son, Gordon, died when an IED exploded under his Land Rover in Basra in June 2004, said she hoped Mr Blair would retire to his bed yesterday evening and think to himself, ‘What the hell have I done?’.
“He will never be forgiven,” said Ms Gentle, one of the most high-profile campaigners against the conflict. “He will be remembered not as a prime minister but as a person who sent them on an illegal war. I would love to see him in court.”
It is a wish shared by others who believe Mr Blair is ultimately responsible for the deaths of the 19 Scottish servicemen killed in Iraq, young men who ranged in age from 19 to 34.
One of the youngest was Allan Douglas from Aberdeen, a 22-year-old lance corporal with 7th Armoured Brigade, serving with the Highlanders, 1st Battalion. He was shot by insurgents on a routine patrol in Iraq’s Maysan area in January 2006.
His mother, Diane, said Mr Blair and former US president George Bush had “blood on their hands,” insisting that the conclusions of the report had no bearing on her view.
“It’s been such a waste of money, time and paper. Those millions of pounds could have been spent on the lads and lassies that have all been injured,” she added.
“It’s a damned disgrace the money that has been spent on Chilcot. And why did it take seven years?”
“We want Blair to be tried as a war criminal. Nothing less than that is going to be good enough.”
Perhaps the most damning assessment came from Sarah O’Connor, whose brother, Bob, was killed with nine other airmen when his plane was shot down near Baghdad in 2005.
Sitting beside Ms Gentle and holding her hand for comfort, Ms O’Connor composed herself before offering her own verdict.
“There is one terrorist in this world that the world needs to be aware of, and his name is Tony Blair, the world’s worst terrorist,” she said.
She went on: “The terrorists took my brother – and in that sentence of terrorists I include Mr Blair – took my brother and took my family. But you won’t take me. I’m going nowhere. I’m going nowhere Blair.”
She added that she had apologised to Sir John for criticising the time he took to deliver the report, explaining: “I thanked him for justice that he has given those names that are on the wall at the National Memorial Arboretum and all those named that aren’t included on there that need to be remembered, the non-combat deaths, the civilians, the Iraqi civilians.
“And then look at how our government treated those Iraqis that worked for us, they leave them there to rot and be killed and the wave of destruction continues.”
Melinda Ingram, whose son Chris Dunsmore died in 2007 just days before his 30th birthday, said the report confirmed some of the evidence for going to war had been “massaged or presented in such a way that it shouldn’t have been”.
The RAF reservist, from Leicester, was just hours away from coming home on leave in 2007 but became the first reservist to be killed in action since the Second World War.
Ms Ingram said the report “isn’t justice yet because it’s just evidence,” before adding: “But it is evidence that might in the future result in some justice”.
Asked what form that justice might take, she said it would take time to consider the evidence detailed in the report and establish whether anyone was potentially accountable for the litany of failures.
“If we go forward to a court case it would be interesting to see what the outcome is and I think it should be tested in the court but I don’t know if that’s possible,” she reasoned. “A lot of the families want to take Tony Blair to court.”
The 19 Scottish soldiers who died in Iraq campaign and date of death:
Barry Stephen, of Scone, Perth and Kinross - 24 March 2003.
Alexander Tweedie, of Hawick, Scottish Borders - 22 April 2003.
James McCue, of Paisley, Renfrewshire - 30 April 2003.
David Shepherd, of Creetown, Dumfries and Galloway - 19 May 2003.
Jason Smith, of Hawick, Scottish Borders - 13 August 2003.
Russell Beeston, of Govan, Glasgow - 27 August 2003.
Andrew Craw, of Alloa, Clackmannanshire -7 January 2004.
Robert Thomson, of Bathgate, West Lothian - 31 January 2004.
Gordon Gentle, of Pollock, Glasgow - 28 June 2004.
Marc Ferns, of Glenrothes, Fife - 12 August 2004.
Kevin McHale, of Lochgelly, Fife - 29 October 2004.
Stuart Gray, of Dunfermline, Fife - 4 November 2004.
Scott McArdle, of Glenrothes, Fife - 4 November 2004.
Paul Lowe, of Dunfermline, Fife - 4 November 2004.
Allan Douglas, of Aberdeen - 30 January 2006.
Gordon Pritchard, of Edinburgh - 31 January 2006.
James Kerr, of Cowdenbeath, Fife - 28 June 2007.
Scott Kennedy, of Dunfermline, Fife - 28 June 2007.
Stephen Ferguson, of Lanarkshire -13 December 2007.