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GULF WAR II: GRIM TASK OF RECOVERING BODIES.

Byline: STEPHEN HAYWARD

A SMALL unit nicknamed "The Chunkies" has the grim task of recovering the bodies of fallen Allied and enemy troops from the battlefields of Iraq.

Known as the Graves Registration Unit of the Royal Pioneer Corps, the 30-strong team has been hard at work on the frontline since hostilities broke out 11 days ago.

They collect the bodies of troops killed in action and ensure they are identified and brought back to the UK for proper burial.

They also record details of where servicemen are found on the battlefield, using a map grid reference and a "pen picture" of the scene, showing how they died.

Dog tags, stating names, serial numbers and blood groups - along with identity cards carried by servicemen in case they are captured - are gathered and put inside plastic bags along with any other personal effects.

These are then placed inside black, zip-up bodybags measuring 6ft by 2ft, which are taken by Army ambulances to the nearest field hospital and then to a mobile mortuary where they are photographed for identification. The bodybags are kept in refrigerated trucks often specially hired by the MoD or in cold-store buildings at Army bases.

Later, the bodies are placed in air-tight tin boxes - welded down to stop anyone interfering with the remains - and put inside wooden coffins to be brought home.

British servicemen who die in the Gulf are flown from Kuwait to RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, which has its own mortuary and coroner's court. Colleagues acting as pallbearers carry the coffins from RAF transport planes in a military ceremony. Post mortems are then held to establish cause of death and the bodies are formally identified before being released to the relatives.

It is also the unit's responsibility to bury enemy dead. Under article 17 of the Geneva Convention, every effort must be made to identify enemy troops before burial.

Names of the dead and details of graves will be kept by allied commanding officers so they can be passed on to Iraqi authorities.

The MoD said: "They are treated with all due respect."
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 30, 2003
Words:347
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Next Article:GULF WAR 11: 1,000 BRIT DEAD; Military chiefs warn Blair over huge toll if we enter Baghdad.


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