It was announced last night (GMT) of the loss of an RAF C-130 Hercules Transport Aircraft just to the north of Baghdad on Sunday 31st January 2005.
The accident was, sadly, fatal with the death of 10 members of the British Armed Forces dying in the crash. They are the first deaths of British
servicemen due to aviation related incidents since July 2004 when Flight Lieutenant Kristian Michel Alexander Gover was killed in a helicopter
accident at Basra International Airport. MOD (Ministry of Defence) officials have not commented yet on the crash other than to tell of those who died
and that they are not yet sure of the cause of the crash and are not ruling out hostile action. During the same breifing to the press they also ruled
out that there were SAS operatives on board contrary to a prevailing rumour. This also marks the first shooting down of a British aircraft since the
begining of the war in a tragic friendly-fire incident.
An RAF C-130K Hercules crashed near the town of Al Taji, 30 kilometres north-west of Baghdad on 30 January 2005 at approximately 1635 local time. The
aircraft was on an administrative flight to Balad. Coalition forces from the US 1st Cavalry Division and US 1st Marine Expeditionary Force have
secured the area. The immediate next of kin of the ten personnel who are missing believed killed have now been informed, but have asked for some
further time to inform their wider families. The MOD will therefore not release any names until midday at the earliest on 1 February 2005. The media
are strongly requested to respect their wishes and privacy.
The Secretary of State for Defence, the Rt Hon Geoff Hoon MP, said on 31 January:
"It is with great regret that I can confirm that nine Royal Air Force personnel and one soldier are missing believed killed in yesterday's crash of an
RAF C-130 Hercules in Iraq. On behalf of the Ministry of Defence and all the Armed Forces, I should like to extend my deepest sympathies to the
families of these servicemen.
"The aircraft was on a flight between Baghdad International Airport and Balad airbase when it crashed. UK and US forces have secured the crash site,
and are now recovering the bodies, and attempting to ascertain the cause of the crash. We are aware of reports that the aircraft may have been shot
down, but we are not in a position to come to any conclusions until the investigation is complete.
Please visit the link provided for the complete story.
Given that this is on the day of the elections held in Iraq I begin to wonder: If this was a hostile action then what was the motive behind it?
If the intention was to strike fear into people to stop them from voting at the polls (a gesture showing that they still have strength enough to down
a modern western military aircraft) then it may have in fact had exactly the other effect as people free of oppression from Saddam's regieme went to
let their voices be heard, Baghdad had an 80% turnout at it's polls - the people obviously unafraid to show their support any longer.
If it was to strike fear into the Coalition hearts then they have achieved as much as all the other attacks have on the military forces stationed
there. They may have comrades fallen protecting and freeing a people but they are doing a job and they all realise that there will be casualties and
that ultimately they must get on with their job and be more resilient than those that oppose them are.
So what if it wasn't a hostile action? The RAF pilots are considered amongst the best in the world in training in both Aircrew operations and
Maintenance so could human error be to blame here? Given the maintenance record of the RAF I find this quite hard to believe and that there could have
been pilot error becomes also hard to believe when you bear in mind that this even took place at around 1635 local time - even though I don't know the
particular circumstance except that today's weather is partly cloudy - Baghdad is pretty flat (or so it seems) and so the chance of a pilot crashing
into high terrain is low. So if the aircraft was going out of control in anyway surely there would have been radio contact of some kind (none reported
of so far).
So in my opinion this leaves only hostile action but until the MOD gives it official verdict I will maintain an open mind. If I can paraphrase from a
sermon I recently hearr, whilst we must feel sorry for those that died in this incident and others we should not feel sorry for them as they knew what
they were getting into when they signed up for service and that there is little greater honour than to die for one's country. I take that from a
sermon given by an ex-armed force chaplain and agree with it. They are gone but they will be glad that they did their part. The hostiles (if there are
any) have achieved little, they have merely stirred up a greater resolve in the minds of those out there opposing THEM!