I have only a vague memory of my grand father who died when I was 3 in 1958. He was a First World War veteran. He did not fight on the Western Front, but spent his war service in the Middle East in what is now Iraq. In 1914-8 the area was called Mesopotamia and part of the collapsing Ottoman Empire. He did say of his time in the 7th Battalion North Staffs that he was present at the fall of Baghdad in March 1917. I came across an account of the Staffords as they were given the honour of leading the Allied Forces into the City. It is certain that the account has a familiarity to the eyes of modern soldiers
“On the morning of the 12th, greatly to our joy, we were chosen to be the first Battalion to march in and commence the searching of the city. Every available man paraded, just about 300, and at mid-day we marched away from our bivouac as smart a battalion as was anywhere to be found. We entered the city by the north-gate—the Bab-el-Muadham—over which the Union Jack was floating in the breeze, and led by Lieut.-Col. J. W. Ley on his pony, Blue Boy, we marched down Khalil Pasha Street (now New Street) towards the centre of the town. Vast crowds of men, women, and children pressed upon us on all sides, clapping their hands in rhythm and chanting " AUah-il-AUah ! "Arriving at the top of " Bridge Street " we turned to our left into the Jewish quarter, and commenced searching houses, each Company being allotted several streets. The procedure was as follows : The street to be searched was cleared, and pickets were posted at intervals. The Company Commander and Platoon Officers with escorts went into the houses and searched them for arms,ammunition, hidden Turks, or loot.”
86 years after this event more or less to the day another allied force entered Baghdad. It is 10 years since a mainly American led coalition embarked upon the invasion of Iraq. I ,like a million others, took part in the February mass demonstration in London against the onset of the war. I have no doubt a decade on that the 2003 war represents the greatest blunder in British Foreign Policy since Munich in 1938. I am sure supporters of the war will point to the downfall of the odious Hussain regime, the creation of a semi autonomous Kurdish state in the north and freedom, although whether that includes Gays, Christians and women is a moot point. It seems to me the main gainer from the war was Iran ironically which it is claimed does or is close to having weapons of mass destruction.