Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 2003, Sergeant Steven Mark Roberts, 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, was killed near Al Zubayr, south west of Basra - the first British soldier to die in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
He was accidentally shot by a colleague, using a tank-mounted machine gun, who was trying to help him as he struggled with an Iraqi protester during a riot. The Iraqi was killed in that same incident. The gunner had not been taught that the gun was harder to aim at short range, and due to shortages Sergeant Roberts had given up armour that would have saved him. He was wearing standard body armour at the time as a few days earlier he had handed over his enhanced armour with ceramic plates to someone who was considered more at risk. The pathologist concluded that the enhanced armour would have stopped the bullet that killed him. Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said he was “extremely sorry” that Sergeant Roberts had lacked the enhanced armour, and Sergeant Roberts’ widow said that Mr. Hoon had blood on his hands and should resign. She released an audio diary that her husband had kept before his death, in which he described “disgraceful” shortages and called supplies to soldiers “a joke.” He wrote: “Things we have been told we are going to get, we’re not. It’s disheartening because know we are going to go to war without the correct equipment.”
Sergeant Roberts had joined the army in 1986 and is remembered as excelling in all aspects of military life as well as sports - he held the Regimental Team Colours in rugby and Individual Colours in squash. He joined the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment in 1987, gaining promotion quickly and continuing to demonstrate his potential, being considered ahead of his peers. He served in Northern Ireland and Cyprus, and spent two years as an instructor at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate, training new recruits.
Steven, from Cornwall, was 33 years old and married with one child.