Lance Corporal of Horse Matty Hull, The Blues & Royals, Household Cavalry Regiment
Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 2003, Lance Corporal of Horse Matty Hull, The Blues & Royals, Household Cavalry Regiment, was killed in Iraq in what was termed a friendly fire incident when U.S. forces opened fire on his tank.
The inquest heard a series of taped interviews of the U.S. pilots and military investigators; both were experienced, but neither had been in a conflict situation before. They claimed there was confusion over their intended targets, frustration at conflicting orders and poor communications with the air controllers. The British board of inquiry found that no authorisation was given by ground controllers. They opened fire on the British tanks because they believed they had rockets; yet the "rockets" were extra measures in addition to standard day-glo panels, to protect the troops against friendly fire incidents. Both pilots claimed they were told twice by their Forward Air Controller that they were "well clear" of "friendlies." One pilot said that after the attack he saw red smoke (released by coalition forces after there has been a friendly fire incident) but he was unsure as to the meaning. The inquest heard from a British FAC that the incident wouldn't have happened if the U.S. pilots had followed the same procedures as U.K. pilots in similar situations. He testified that they committed a "catalogue of serious failures" when they fired, including "ignoring crucial warning signs, attacking without permission, and failing to wait for an artillery shell marker on a proposed target." After the inquest it was revealed that relevant evidence from the U.S. investigation had been blacked out in the copy of the report given to the inquest, Lance Corporal Hull’s widow made a personal appeal to George Bush for the information to be released.
The coroner returned a narrative verdict, stating that the killing was "unlawful" and that “The attack on the convoy amounted to an assault. It was unlawful because there was no lawful reason for it and in that respect it was criminal." Neither of the U.S. pilots nor any U.S. government representative appeared at the inquest, despite numerous requests to do so.
The U.S.A.F. conducted an investigation but the results were not publicly released, and there was no court-martial. Subsequent reporting of that investigation states that fault was found with both pilots' actions in the incident, including, "findings of cognitive and physical task overload, ineffective communication and failure to recognise identification panels by the two pilots." The investigation report recommended administrative or disciplinary action against them, but the U.S. Department of Defence cleared both pilots of any wrong-doing
Lance Corporal Hull’s wife made this statement: “I have decided to issue this statement because I feel strongly that I should make clear that Matty wasn’t just another number added to a casualty list. He is, without doubt, the most exceptional man I have ever met; a loving and supportive husband and son, a dedicated soldier and a great friend to so many. He had rightly earned the utmost respect from everyone he worked with, and this makes it that much harder to accept this accidental death. Matty was fully committed to his role, in the army as a whole, and both his Regiment and Squadron. I know that he was where he wanted to be, doing the job he believed in when he died. It is not easy to come to terms with the fact that someone who was so full of life has had his so cruelly cut short, just three days before his 26th birthday, but come to terms with it we must. Matty’s personal strength instilled in me the ability to ‘dig deep’ and ‘be strong’, and that is what I, and everyone who loved him so greatly, must now do. It is what he would want. May I express my sincere thanks to all at Household Cavalry Regiment for their support throughout this terrible time, and I pray that this war will be over swiftly with no more such tragic deaths. Matty always strived for a challenge and Iraq has proved his ultimate test. His aim in life was to be the best he could be, and there was certainly no better husband, son or brother on this earth.”
Matty, from Windsor, was 25 years old.