Soldier shows Gulf War Syndrome symptoms

A COLCHESTER soldier given multiple inoculations before the latest Iraq war is threatening to sue the Government after suffering "severe reactions" similar to Gulf War Syndrome.

By Roddy Ashworth

A COLCHESTER soldier given multiple inoculations before the latest Iraq war is threatening to sue the Government after suffering "severe reactions" similar to Gulf War Syndrome.

The man is one of four servicemen considering whether to seek compensation after undergoing clinical assessments, said Mark McGhee, of Manchester-based law firm Linder Myers.

Mr McGhee, who has dealt with more than 400 veterans from the first Gulf War, said the symptoms reported by the four soldiers were "identical" to those of Gulf War Syndrome.


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Symptoms were both physical and psychological, including stomach pains, aches, swelling, rashes, depression and anxiety.

Stephen Cartwright, 24, of Kidderminster, Worcestershire, and Tony Barker, 45, from Leeds, were among the four men threatening to sue the Ministry of Defence after suffering "severe physical and psychological symptoms''.

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Mr McGhee confirmed one of the four – but would not say who – was based in Colchester.

He said all four soldiers had received multiple inoculations in one day, contrary to Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon's statement to the Commons earlier this year.

At least one of them had been given five vaccinations in one go, he added.

"It is my understanding that specific guidance was given to medical officers that these inoculations were not to be administered on a multiple basis," he said.

Last night Conservative North Essex MP Bernard Jenkin – also shadow defence secretary at Westminster – said that if the claims were true they should be dealt with speedily.

"Any genuine claims must be dealt with humanely and swiftly. Compensation has been paid in the past and it must be paid in genuine cases."

He added that if the men had received more than one inoculation a day the Government should take the blame.

"On the face of it, it would be grossly negligent. The Government left the notices of this operation incredibly late. They knew this war was a possibility months before.

"However, they left the warning orders until January 15. We were asking long before Christmas why people like the Parachute Regiment had not been given notice to leave.

"By leaving it so late they gave less preparation time and made it worse."

Mr McGhee referred to Mr Hoon's statement in January when he told MPs that "a key lesson" learnt from the 1991 Gulf conflict was the importance of ensuring that troops should not receive a number of different vaccinations in a short timeframe.

"At the moment they are considering what avenues are available to them," he said.

"They have suffered quite severe reactions to the inoculations but we can't say whether or not we are going to go for compensation yet. As far as screening is concerned, that will take place over the next few months."

Mr McGhee said none of the four soldiers had so far taken part in a screening programme set up at King's College London to monitor the health of troops returning from the Gulf.

A Colchester Army spokeswoman said yesterday she was not aware which, if any, of the 16 Air Assault Brigade members based at the town's garrison had complained of the illness.

Charles Plumridge, senior co-ordinator of the National Gulf Veterans and Families Association (NGVFA), said two of the four soldiers did not end up being deployed because they suffered such bad reactions.

He said Mr Cartwright, a Royal Engineers reservist sapper, developed a severe rash, swelling and fever.

The father-of-one spent four days in isolation at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge and did not get deployed to the Gulf. He has since been discharged from service.

Mr Barker, who was deployed in northern Kuwait as a Royal Logistics Corps driver, had to be flown back to the UK after experiencing fainting and dizzy spells and soaring high blood pressure.

The Territorial Army Lance Corporal had received five vaccinations in one day and was later given two anthrax jabs, it is claimed.

His condition is said to have deteriorated since his return and he has been "medically downgraded'' by the TA.

The two other soldiers, who have not been named, are still serving and are currently in Germany.

Mr Plumridge, who served in the 1991 conflict, said the symptoms reported by the four soldiers were "more or less similar'' to those experienced by veterans of the first Gulf War.

Symptoms such as mood swings and depression were only reported about three or four months after soldiers returned from the Gulf in 1991.

"We have got to question the Government's policy on the mixture of vaccinations,'' he added.

Professor Simon Wessely, director of the Gulf War Illness Research Unit at King's College, said it was too early to draw any conclusions about the four soldiers' claims.

He stressed that multiple inoculations were not necessarily a problem.

The MoD said it had not been approached by any of the four soldiers or their solicitor.

A spokesman added: "If they have got some kind of illness that they feel is a result of the injections or their action within the Gulf, then please approach us or approach their GP and they will be referred to the medical assessment programme which we are carrying out.''

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