I was thinking today about the woman I met the other night at the Stop the War gig I performed at. Rose Gentle was the mother who was there to talk about the movement of Families against the war.
Rose is just an ordinary Glasgow woman but with an extraordinary mission. We sat at the same table as I was about to go on stage and she chatted away to me about just regular stuff. Her son Gordon joined the army at age 19, he got around thirty four weeks training and was promptly sent to Iraq where he died within weeks of being there.
She told me “Gordon had joined the Army 6 months before his death. He signed up for the army when he went to sign on for his benefits.He was a classical economic conscript.If he had access to a half decent job, then he and many other young soldiers like him, including another 5 from our local community, would not have considered joining the army. We now know that Gordon’s life could have been saved if the MOD had provided his regiment with the proper equipment. 2 hours after Gordon’s death, all RHF vehicles were fitted with a piece of equipment called the Bolterman (electronic jamming device).The Bolterman is designed to jam the remote signal that is used to detonate roadside bombs. The RHF were the only British battalion in Iraq that did not have the Bolterman fitted to their vehicles. The Bolterman units were sitting on a shelf in an MOD storeroom!”
I was horrified to hear this. I asked how she felt when people posed the question of ‘well he did wear the uniform, he was solider, and soldiers do die in combat’
She composed herself, put out a cigarette and spoke with conviction “Janey, if my son had died trying to stop the weapons of mass destruction from coming over here and killing us, I would have been sad and proud. The fact is, there were NO weapons of mass destruction, my son died for a lie, he died for oil and that’s a fact. There is Iraqi people dying on the streets, there are children being maimed and bombed for a myth. Those innocents don’t deserve to die like that, this is not a war, this is a propaganda machine. I was proud of my son trying to defend his country but I will not support a lie, they need to bring the troops home and stop defending their pretend war”
She told me she was labeled a thorn in Tony Blair’s side and added she wouldn’t rest until she was a thorn in his throat. That made me smile.
This woman, who married, grew up in Glasgow, who once was a cleaner at my daughters school, who worked hard to raise her kids, buy Christmas presents, went holidays was now standing up and facing our elected Prime Minster and all of that executed with ease.
I watched her speaking to the gathered crowd; she was clear, concise and succinct about her subject matter, never once letting the emotion betray her voice, never once nervously mumbling her words.
She was more believable as a public speaker than Tony Blair, I wanted to rally round this woman and fight her cause, and I was roused to the core!
I could only admire her gusto, I have a nineteen year old daughter, I have no idea how I could ever speak again if she were dead. I do know that Rose Gentle is a wee regular Glasgow wifie who will never be far from Tony Blair’s mind.
He will never meet her and avoids her gaze as she stands outside Downing street with placards and as she relentlessly campaigns for the rights of those soldiers in Iraq and to keep the memory alive of Gordon Gentle, a boy who died in a country his mammy never even knew existed till he lay dead on their dirt side roads.
Good on you Rose, take some of that Glasgow grit and make it stick on Blair’s lying face as he defends the decision for those soldiers to spend another year in country where no one knows who the real enemies are, Rose Gentle knows…apparently his name is Tony.