THE father of the
youngest soldier to die in Iraq last night angrily
demanded answers from Tony Blair for sending his son to
war on a false pretence.
Rob Kelly, 54,
whose 18-year-old paratrooper son Andrew died in a
shooting accident in Basra, said: "If Tony Blair's
teenage son had been in the Army he would never have
taken this country to war."
As the prime
minister defiantly told a Commons committee he had been
justified in going to war, Mr Kelly said: "Initially, I
agreed with the Government and Tony Blair.
"Like everyone else
I had to trust the information we were being given and
the reasons for going to war. But now I am asking 'What
was it for?' and 'What did my son die for?'
"I feel my son has
been taken away by bad decision-making and the
credibility of our country is at stake because of our
Mr Kelly, who spent
24 years in the Royal Navy and served on HMS Warspite
during the Falklands war, added: "The Falklands was
justified because another country had invaded our
Private Andrew Kelly
"It is ironic that
we never, ever declared war on the Argentinians, it was
only ever called a conflict. Maggie Thatcher got a lot
of stick but at least that war was justified, even if
they didn't call it one.
"Here we have a
full-blown war in Iraq - it certainly isn't
Mr Kelly received
his son's last letter on May 6, posted in Iraq on April
25. Half-an-hour later a phone call to his home in
Saltash, Cornwall, informed him Andrew was dead.
He said: "I was
devastated. And now I want answers because none of it
Andrew was too
young to be sent to Iraq when the conflict began.
The private had to
wait at Colchester barracks until his 18th birthday on
March 9 before he was allowed to join his comrades in
1st Platoon, A Company, 3 Para.
Seven weeks later
he was dead. Mr Kelly added: "In my last 25-minute phone
chat with Andrew I told him I was very proud of him.
"He was very
excited of course, but I told him the time would come
when he would be very scared - and that if he wasn't
there would be something wrong with him.
"Soldiers are not
politicians. They go where they are told and do what
they are told. I just told my son to do his duty and
warned him he would come back a changed man. I didn't
realise he'd never come back.
"I spoke to senior
officers at Brize Norton when his body was flown home.
They said Andrew and his platoon had been on late-night
"They had been shot
at the night before and their nerves must have been on
edge. Andrew must have been tired and tense and cleaning
his gun but I don't know why there should still have
been ammo in the weapon.
"It should have
been cleared before they entered the barracks. He was
shot in the groin. They fought for 45 minutes to try and
Mr Kelly, now a
restaurateur, then produced his son's final letter. It
was the first time anyone outside the family had read
It said: "Dear Dad,
How are you? I'm doing OK in my first operation and it's
mega. I've had loads of action, from storming bridges,
taking artillery fire and having AKs fired at me. I love
everywhere. I never want to go to the beach again. I
can't wait to come home and have a cool pint - or
Andrew, who lived
with his mother Helen, stepfather and brother Ross, 10,
near Tavistock on Dartmoor, joined the Army when he was
His family had a
proud record in the forces. Andrew's grandfather served
in the Second World War.
Mr Kelly said: "His
ambition was to be a red beret and he was. He was proud
of the paras' history and tradition."
His mother revealed
Andrew told her in a last phone call: "Don't worry Mum,
paras always go to heaven." But his father said that was
an edited version. "This is what Andrew would really
have said," Mr Kelly added, pointing to the P.S. in his
final letter: "Paratroopers do not die. They go to hell
Andrew was buried
with full military honours in May at Torpoint, near his
Lt Col Matthew Lowe told mourners: "The loss of Pte
Kelly is especially tragic. He was young man full of
energy and life with a long career ahead of him."
Last night his
father said: "Andrew wanted to join the SAS. Senior
officers I met said he would have undoubtedly done that.
He was the right calibre."
Saving his last
words for Tony Blair, Mr Kelly added: "He appears on TV,
so sincere, so caring, so condescending, that's his
image. But if his 19-year-old son had been in the Army
he would never have taken this country to war."