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Wives back PM on war

AS coalition forces were making great inroads into Iraq’s main cities on Thursday, Tony Blair flew into Aldershot amid tight security for a morale boosting meeting with the families of serving soldiers.

Mr Blair, who was accompanied by wife Cherie and daughter Kathryn, spent just over an hour in a private meeting with the families, listening to their concerns.

A Royal Navy Sea King helicopter flown by members of 846 Sqn brought Mr Blair to the garrison headquarters.

Garrison Commander Col Stephen Oxlade greeted Mr Blair before taking a car to the Officers’ Mess, where 150 wives had gathered.

Diane Parr, 32, whose husband Timothy is serving with 7(Para) RHA, said after the meeting: “It’s been pretty hard but we’ve had a lot of support from the families office and they are keeping us up to date with what is happening.

“We wanted to tell Mr Blair that we are supporting what he is doing and that we’re behind him all the way.”

Joanne Anderton, 35, has been looking after ten-month-old daughter Emily since husband Ray, 27, was deployed to the Gulf.

She said: “The girls were asking questions about when the men might be coming back.

“I just said we appreciated him coming and that we backed him all the way. I think he was chuffed with that.”

Col Oxlade said: “He was on cracking form and for any VIP to take time out of their very busy programme, especially when there is so much going on, is very much appreciated by the families.

“He was very approachable. He didn’t come with any particular message, he came to listen and to give his support to the wives and families during this time.”

Col Oxlade added: “Morale amongst the wives is fine. Of course they are concerned and of course they are worried, and that’s perfectly natural, but again, the operation will go on for as long as is necessary.

“We will continue to give support at garrison level and obviously at unit level, and with outside agencies such as SSAFA and the Army Benevolent Fund for as long as we have to.”

He added: “One thing I would like to say on behalf of the garrison is we’re very appreciative indeed for all the help and support we’re getting from the local community in Aldershot at this very difficult time. I know it does mean a lot to the wives.”

British paratroopers were reported to be pushing forward in large numbers towards the centre of Basra’s old city on Monday.

Members of the former Aldershot-based 3Bn, The Parachute Regt, were attempting to tighten the grip of allied forces.

It presents a major challenge as the narrow streets make it impossible to manoeuvre tanks.


Charlotte Neal
Chief Reporter (Aldershot)
Joshua Smith
Farnborough Reporter
Jon Couch
Sport Editor
Stephen Lloyd
Fleet & Yateley Reporter
Ros Collins
Junior News & Mail
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