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Byline: By Steven Ventura

GEOFF Hoon came under more pressure to quit yesterday as senior Scots soldiers joined the row over war equipment.

Black Watch commander Lieutenant Colonel James Cowan accused the Ministry of Defence of leaving his men ill-equipped and vulnerable during the Iraq conflict.

And Regimental Sergeant Major Brian Cooper, the Black Watch quartermaster in the Gulf, criticised the shortage of nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) protection suits and equipment.

Sgt Maj Cooper said each soldier was meant to have three NBC suits, but he struggled to get themtwo each.

Out-of-date gear was redated to extend its shelf-life, none of the detection equipment was calibrated and there were no materials to decontaminate vehicles after an attack. He said: ''None ofthe stuff worked It was a good job nothing happened out there.''

Lt-Col Cowan said the Armywere not given enough time to arm themselves for the conflict.

Ministers claimed moving early would hinder the peace process by signalling war was inevitable.

But Lt-Col Cowan said: ''You have to have the necessary stockpiles in place so you can deploy your force safely.''

The Black Watch commander's complaints sparked a new outcry against Defence Secretary Hoon, already reeling from the row over the death of Sergeant Steven Roberts, who was killed after he had to hand back his body armour.

SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson MP said: ''It is unforgivable that Scottish troops were sent into battle without proper protective equipment.

''The Government's entire case for war wasthat Iraqpossessedweaponsofmass destruction and yet they sent Black Watch soldiers into a war zone with no protection.

''If Hoon cannot ensure that Scots troops are issued withproperprotective equipment, then he should not be the defence secretary for aday longer.''

Tory shadow defence secretary Peter Duncan yesterday raised Lt Col Cowan's comments in the Commons.

He added: ''The defence secretary, or his successor, will have to explain why our troops were left in such a perilous position. If the Government claimed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, whywere our troops left unprotected?''

Page 3 Enhanced Body Armour: Two plates protecting chest and back. Can be further reinforced with ceramic armour plates.

Problem: Shortage.

Gulf was first major conflict where UK troops wore armour.

Combat Trousers: Same fabric as jacket. Drawstring waist, and drawstring at ankles to keep out sand. Button fly, hip and cargo pockets.

Problem: Shortages.

Only minimal war stocks held. Marines complained of ill-fitting trousers. MoD ordered 89,700 pairs from same suppliers as jacket. Cost estimated at pounds 10.

NBC Suit: Carbon-

impregnated cloth outer suit and respirator protect troops from nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. Vital lifesaving equipment if WMD used.

Problem: Short-age. Ideally troops should have three.

Combat Jacket: Two-colour pale camouflage. Lightweight polyester-cotton blend comfortable in heat but tough enough for combat.

Problem: Shortages.

MoD ordered 92,650 extra from Romania and Far East. Cost thought to be around pounds 10 a jacket. Sell privately for pounds 33.

Boots: Light-weight canvas and suede, rubber sole. Lighter and cooler than leather Army boots. High ankle support, eight eyelets.

Problem: Severeshortages and complaints of discomfort. MoD ordered 20,000 pairs from Spain.

Cost believed to be about pounds 9. Surplus boots cost pounds 25 in Britain. Many prefer padded US version.
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 23, 2004
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