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Colonel quits as fears grow for the safety of his men
A senior army officer serving in Iraq, who voiced concerns over a lack of armoured vehicles for his men, has resigned. Details of the resignation emerged just days after another of Lt Col Nick Henderson's soldiers was killed in a bomb attack in Basra.
Last month the 43-year old commanding officer of 1st Bn Coldstream Guards, who is married with children, made a request to senior officers for extra Warrior armoured personnel carriers.
It is understood that Lt Col Henderson, whose battalion is responsible for security in the southern Iraqi capital of Basra, was concerned that Land Rovers did not offer his men enough protection from terrorist bomb attacks, which have left nine soldiers dead since May. It is unclear whether that request was authorised.
Lt Col Henderson is a highly rated officer who joined the Coldstream Guards in 2003 after transferring from the cavalry. Early in his career he was identified as a high flier and won a place at the Army Staff college, where future senior commanders are taught high-level tactics and strategy. Last night it emerged that Lt Col Henderson had taken voluntary redundancy.
He was said to have been devastated by the death last week of Sgt Christian Hickley, 30, who took the full force of a blast while carrying out a route clearance operation. Sgt Hickley, from West Yorkshire, was due to leave Iraq in the next few days to be reunited with his 24-year-old wife and young son.
He was the third of Lt Col Henderson's soldiers to have been killed in terrorist attacks in recent weeks.
In Al Amarah, 200 miles north of Basra, one of the
most dangerous areas under British control, troops no longer travel in Land
Rovers, using either Warriors or helicopters to conduct operations. The
Army believes that insurgents are using a new type of explosive and a sophisticated
detonating device which can easily destroy armoured Land Rovers.
The new "shaped charge", which intelligence suggests has been supplied by Iran, is unable, however, to penetrate the armour of a Warrior.
In September, Fusilier Donal Anthony Meade, 20, and Fusilier Stephen Robert Manning, 22, both serving with the 2nd Bn The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, but who were under the command of Lt Col Henderson, were killed in a roadside bomb attack.
Lt Col Henderson, who leads a 1,000-strong battle group based in Basra, is responsible for security in the city and the training of the Iraqi Police Service, a force which is largely believed to have become infiltrated with insurgents.
One senior officer expressed surprise that the colonel had been allowed to take voluntary redundancy. He said: "I was under the impression that no serving CO was even allowed to apply, let alone be awarded, redundancy. I find it extraordinary that a CO resign just as he was about to take command of 1,000 men on operations in Iraq.
It all seems a bit strange"
It is understood that Lt Col Henderson resigned his command prior to his unit deploying to Iraq to take advantage of a voluntary redundancy scheme being offered by the Army as part of its reorganisation.
He will hand over command next February and will eventually leave the Army in June.
The Coldstream Guards, which is part of 12 Mechanised Brigade, is due to begin returning to Britain in the next few days following the end of its six-month tour. The brigade is due to be replaced by the 7th Armoured Brigade - the Desert Rats - as part of a routine redeployment of troops.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said that it was the responsibility of commanders on the ground to decide what method of transport should be used by troops in Iraq.
He said: "Decisions on what type of transport
to use are made by commanders on the ground. They make their assessment
based on the tactical situation."