War hero subject of second MoD probe

It has emerged today that Colonel Tim Collins, the British Army commander who won international plaudits for his moving pre-battle speech in Iraq, is the subject of a second MoD probe.

The second inquiry surrounds the apparent suicide of an 18-year-old private soldier at Drumaad barracks, Co Armagh in Northern Ireland, two years ago. He was a member of the 1st Battalion the Royal Irish Regiment. At the time, Tim Collins (43) was commanding officer of the battalion.

The MoD has said that there is an internal inquiry under way over the events leading up to Paul Cochrane's death.

Colonel Collins, who was promoted to full colonel when his battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment was relieved from the battle zone last month, is also alleged to have breached articles of the Geneva Convention during the recent hostilities. The MoD's Special Investigations Branch (SIB) is investigating.

The most serious allegations, which have been referred by a US soldier, surround suggestions that he pistol-whipped an Iraqi civic leader and fired his pistol at an Iraqi vehicle when no threat was posed to his men. Colonel Collins could face a court martial and dismissal if the allegations are proven. He has strenuously denied the charges.

Tim Collins, who has been a professional soldier for 22 years, made headlines across the globe for the rallying speech he gave to the 650 men of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Irish Regiment, on March 19.

In that speech, he called on his men to be ferocious in battle but "magnanimous in victory". Colonel Collins stressed the importance of being robust but to follow humanitarian rules governing warfare fairly. It had been suggested that he would be in line for a gallantry award for his leadership during the war in Iraq.

Prince Charles wrote to Colonel Collins to praise his "humane words" and President Bush is said to have a copy of the speech on display in the Oval Office.


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