Gulf War PoW John Nichol tells of 'sorrow' for Iraq

A former RAF navigator shot down by Iraqis during the first Gulf War has said it is "almost inconceivable" that the UK is still involved in conflict in the region 25 years later.

Flight Lieutenant John Nichol was held hostage by Saddam Hussein's regime during Operation Desert Storm - a US-led coalition campaign to drive the Iraqi dictator's forces from the oil-rich Gulf state they had seized illegally.

He and pilot John Peters were captured after their Tornado fighter jet was brought down following a massive aerial bombardment to clear the way for the ground invasion.

They were beaten and tortured before being paraded on Iraqi television, with their battered faces quickly becoming one of the defining images of the first Gulf War.

Mr Nichol will join veterans and members of the armed forces at St Paul's Cathedral in London later as events are held across the country to mark the 25th anniversary of the conflict.

The wreath-laying service will the honour 53,000 British personnel who were deployed in Operation Granby, the UK's codename for the first Gulf War.

The 52 year old said his treatment as a prisoner of war was the "darkest cloud" of his life but he felt "sorrow" about the current state of Iraq.

Mr Nichol told the Press Association: "We were brutally treated, appallingly treated. It was the worst, darkest cloud of my life. That was war. Brutal things happen in war on both sides.

"I feel nothing but sorrow for the way Iraq has turned out. Undoubtedly there were some brutally cruel people. But the vast majority of Iraqis were good and reasonable."

"If, as prisoners of war, when we walked out of our cells 25 years ago, you'd have said young men and women who were not even born would be fighting still, we would not be able to believe it.

"It's testament to the failure of successive generations of diplomats and politicians that we're still fighting in Iraq. It's almost inconceivable.

"IS will not be defeated by military might. Even calling it IS is wrong. It is a global phenomenon. It is fundamental Islamic terrorism."

Last weekend, Mr Nichol joined 18 other former prisoners of war from the first Gulf War and two widows in Piccadilly, central London. Sir John Major, prime minister at the time of the first Gulf War, and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon were also guests.

Mr Nichol, a father of one, said: "When Sir John Major gave a speech he said that we did the right thing at the right time. We evicted Iraq from occupied Kuwait.

"Lots of people said we didn't finish the job and we should have gone to Baghdad. We had no UN resolution to go to Baghdad.

"We did what we were told to do. We did it properly.

"The downside was that it showed what can be achieved with military might. For subsequent politicians, it has been their answer to any problem."