BBC News on Wednesday, February 19, 2003
The deployment of troops to the Gulf continued on Wednesday morning with the departure of 600 troops on three flights from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. The troops, members of the 16 Air Assault Brigade, included paratroopers, infantry and support units.
A further two flights will leave on Thursday, each containing 180 troops, bringing the total number to have left the air base to just under 1,000.
Some of those who left spoke of their concern at the recent public outcry over any war with Iraq.
Lack of support
In his monthly press conference Prime Minister Tony Blair said he “should and does listen to the thousands that marched on Saturday” in anti-war protests.
Speaking on Tuesday he insisted most of the marchers were not against war in all circumstances but were opposed to a war that was “rushed or unnecessary”.
“There is no rush to war,” he stressed.
The personnel who left on Wednesday are part of a total deployment of around 40,000 British troops to take part in possible action against Iraq.
The troops, mainly from the 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment, based in Colchester, are among the last expected to be deployed to the Gulf region.
The last group to leave were 180 members from three regiments of the army air corps, who will give air cover to ground troops.