Colonel Tim Collins' Speech

Colonel Tim Collins' speech to around 800 men of the battlegroup of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment, part of the 16 Air Assault Brigade given at their Fort Blair Mayne camp in the Kuwaiti desert about 20 miles from the Iraqi border on Wednesday 19 March 2003.

Pensive: Lt Col Tim Collins smokes a cigar after addressing his men
Pensive: Lt Col Tim Collins smokes a cigar after addressing his men

(Click for larger image)
Source: Daily Mail / This is London

Seventy-five per cent of his officers are from Ireland, but he is also in charge of a company of Gurkhas and soldiers from Fiji, Antigua, St Vincent, South Africa, Australia and Canada. The Northern Ireland-based Royal Irish Regiment is 40 percent Catholics from the Irish Republic.

Collins is 42, born and raised in Belfast and now based in barracks at Canterbury with his wife Caroline and five children.

Extracted with my formatting added from the BBC News report: UK troops told: Be just and strong originally from a pooled report by Sarah Oliver of the Mail on Sunday. Oliver reports:

Collins's extempore address was a moving occasion. "He delivered the speech completely off the cuff," she recalls. "He said to me, 'I'll have to say a few words to the men to explain to them why they should take their anthrax drugs and malaria pills, or they just won't bother'. It just grew and grew into something magnificent - it made you realise the true meaning of the term 'rallying cry'.

"It was just after a standstorm and all the men were standing around him in a U-shape in the middle of a very dusty courtyard. A lot of the Irish Rangers are very young and he wanted to explain something of the history and culture of Iraq to them. They knew that the public at home had doubts about the rightness of the war, and he wanted to reassure them and tell them why they were there. He delivered the speech without a note and went on at length. By the end, everyone felt they were ready for whatever lay ahead."

We go to liberate, not to conquer.
We will not fly our flags in their country
We are entering Iraq to free a people and the only flag which will be flown in that ancient land is their own.
Show respect for them.

There are some who are alive at this moment who will not be alive shortly.
Those who do not wish to go on that journey, we will not send.
As for the others, I expect you to rock their world.
Wipe them out if that is what they choose.
But if you are ferocious in battle remember to be magnanimous in victory.

Iraq is steeped in history.
It is the site of the Garden of Eden, of the Great Flood and the birthplace of Abraham.
Tread lightly there.

You will see things that no man could pay to see
-- and you will have to go a long way to find a more decent, generous and upright people than the Iraqis.
You will be embarrassed by their hospitality even though they have nothing.

Don't treat them as refugees for they are in their own country.
Their children will be poor, in years to come they will know that the light of liberation in their lives was brought by you.

If there are casualties of war then remember that when they woke up and got dressed in the morning they did not plan to die this day.
Allow them dignity in death.
Bury them properly and mark their graves.

It is my foremost intention to bring every single one of you out alive.
But there may be people among us who will not see the end of this campaign.
We will put them in their sleeping bags and send them back.
There will be no time for sorrow.

The enemy should be in no doubt that we are his nemesis and that we are bringing about his rightful destruction.
There are many regional commanders who have stains on their souls and they are stoking the fires of hell for Saddam.
He and his forces will be destroyed by this coalition for what they have done.
As they die they will know their deeds have brought them to this place. Show them no pity.

It is a big step to take another human life.
It is not to be done lightly.
I know of men who have taken life needlessly in other conflicts.
I can assure you they live with the mark of Cain upon them.

If someone surrenders to you then remember they have that right in international law and ensure that one day they go home to their family.
The ones who wish to fight, well, we aim to please.

If you harm the regiment or its history by over-enthusiasm in killing or in cowardice, know it is your family who will suffer.
You will be shunned unless your conduct is of the highest -- for your deeds will follow you down through history.
We will bring shame on neither our uniform or our nation.

(On Saddam's chemical and biological weapons.)

It is not a question of if, it's a question of when.
We know he has already devolved the decision to lower commanders, and that means he has already taken the decision himself.
If we survive the first strike we will survive the attack.

As for ourselves, let's bring everyone home and leave Iraq a better place for us having been there.

Our business now is north.

Copyright Tim Collins, 2003


(Update: I've not been adding references to the allegations made by Major Re Biastre about the conduct of this hero. Officer cleared of Iraqi war crimes (BBC News), 2003-09-01.)

Speech References

Other References about Tim Collins

Collected by Dave Beckett