PRWEEK AWARDS 2003: People & Agencies - The Media Training Masterclass Award - Communicator of the Year

WINNER - COLONEL TIM COLLINS, LATE OF 1ST BATTALION OF THE ROYAL IRISH REGIMENT

On the eve of the invasion of Iraq, at Fort Blair Mayne desert camp in Kuwait, 800 British troops gathered for a pre-battle speech.

Protests against the war were grabbing the headlines as troops prepared for the invasion, and prime minister Tony Blair faced opposition over his decision to join the US in military action.

Only a matter of hours from Washington's deadline for Saddam Hussein to quit Iraq, Lt Col Tim Collins (his rank at the time) delivered a speech to his men in the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment.

Its content was splashed all over the national press the next day.

Lt Col Collins chose to talk to his troops about the morality of the war, the gravity of taking another man's life, the history of Iraq, the reputation of the regiment and the need for magnanimity in what has become widely regarded as the most stirring and memorable speech of the conflict.

He reminded his troops of the moral argument for military action: 'We go to liberate not to conquer. We will not fly our flags in their country.

We are entering Iraq to free a people, and the only flag that will be flown in that ancient land is their own. Show respect for them.'

With one hand he reassured the troops: 'The enemy should be in no doubt that we are his nemesis, and that we are bringing about his rightful destruction.'

With the other, he warned against cruelty: 'If you harm the regiment or its history by over-enthusiasm in killing or in cowardice, know it is your family who will suffer.'

It seemed to strike exactly the right chord with the troops in Kuwait, and touched the British public, who may not have favoured the war, but were supportive of the troops.

The Sun was admiring of Collins's oration, comparing it in mastery to that of Shakespeare's finest speeches.

Lt Col Collins's conduct during the war was drawn into question when a US army reservist, Major Re Biastre, claimed the British officer pistol-whipped a Ba'ath Party official.

Yet, following a Ministry of Defence investigation, Collins was cleared of all charges in September and no disciplinary action or charges were made.

He has since been promoted to full Colonel and is currently working as head of the Bosnia Study Team at the Joint Services Staff College, Shrivenham.

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