Famous speech by Colonel Tim Collins 'left men fearful'

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The famous eve-of-battle speech by Colonel Tim Collins electrified the British public and drew widespread praise, but it left the men under his command fearful and demoralised, according to one of his officers.

In a new book, Captain Doug Beattie claims that Colonel Collins’s address to the 1st Battalion, the Royal Irish Regiment, just a few hours before they went into battle against Saddam Hussein’s troops in March 2003, was rousing but also sobering.

Many commentators (including this one) hailed the speech as a masterpiece of martial rhetoric, but Captain Beattie, then regimental sergeant-major under Colonel Collins, recalls seeing “heads starting to go down” in the course of his speech, which left “more and more frowns on men’s faces”.

“I knew I had a problem,” Captain Beattie writes.

“He had left the men somewhere they shouldn’t have been: thinking about home, wondering if they would ever return there again, fearful of the dangers that faced them.

“It pulled no punches, the message was stark,” the soldier writes, recalling his reaction as the speech ended: “Cheers boss, thanks a bloody lot.”

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