Tim Collins (British Army officer)

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Tim Collins
Col Tim Collins OBE.jpg
Born April 1960
Belfast
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Years of service 1981 - 2004
Rank Colonel
Commands held 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment
Battles/wars 1st Gulf War, Colombia Drugs War, Zaire Army Rebellion 1991, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq War
Awards Officer of the Order of the British Empire
Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service

Colonel Timothy Thomas Cyril "Tim" Collins, OBE[1] (born April 1960) is a former officer in the British Army. He is best known for his role in the Iraq War in 2003, and his inspirational eve-of-battle speech, a copy of which apparently hung in the White House's Oval Office. He is currently CEO (and co-founder) of intelligence-based security services company New Century.

Early life[edit]

Collins was born and raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he grew up during The Troubles. He was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution before attending the Queen's University of Belfast, where he gained a degree in economics.[2]

Military career[edit]

After graduating from university, Collins was accepted into the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, from where he was commissioned into the Royal Signals as a second lieutenant on a short service commission on 2 October 1981.[3] His commission was later backdated to 7 April 1979,[citation needed] and he was promoted to lieutenant with seniority from 7 April 1981.[4] He transferred to the Royal Irish Rangers on 18 October 1982.[5] He switched to a full commission on 22 October 1984,[6] and was promoted captain on 7 October 1985.[7] In 1994, Collins graduated as Master of Arts after completing the Army's Commands and Staff course at Staff College, Camberley.[citation needed]

Collins went on to serve in Germany, Cyprus, the Falkland Islands and Gibraltar, as well as completing two tours of duty in Northern Ireland, the first in south Armagh and the second in east Tyrone. He passed selection into the Special Air Service in 1988 and went on to serve two operational tours with the regiment as a troop commander and as operations officer and one tour at HQ Special Forces in Duke of York Barracks, London where he was responsible for the detention of Persons Indicted for War Crimes in the Former Yugoslavia (PIFWICs), Offensive Information Operations (OIO) in Kosovo and the Operations in Sierra Leone culminating in Operation Barras.[citation needed] He was promoted major on 30 September 1992,[8] and lieutenant-colonel on 30 June 1999.[9] Collins was appointed commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment in 2001, and earned the nickname "Nails" among his men.[citation needed] For a tour of duty in Northern Ireland between October 2001 and March 2002, he was awarded the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service on 29 October 2002.[10] It was in the capacity of 1 R Irish's commanding officer that he rose to prominence while serving in Iraq.

Eve-of-battle speech[edit]

As Lieutenant Colonel (Commanding Officer) of the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment of the British Army, Collins gave a rousing eve-of-battle speech to his troops in Kuwait on Wednesday 19 March 2003. The speech was extemporised, and was recorded in shorthand by a single journalist, Sarah Oliver. No recording or film of the speech exists, Collins told the BBC.[11]

Speech excerpt[edit]

We go to Iraq to liberate not to conquer. We will not fly our flags in their country. We are entering Iraq to free a people and the only flag which will be flown in that ancient land is their own. Show respect for them.

There are some who are alive at this moment who will not be alive shortly. Those who do not wish to go on that journey, we will not send. As for the others I expect you to rock their world. Wipe them out if that is what they choose. But if you are ferocious in battle remember to be magnanimous in victory.

Iraq is steeped in history. It is the site of the Garden of Eden, of the Great Flood and the birthplace of Abraham. Tread lightly there. You will see things that no man could pay to see and you will have to go a long way to find a more decent, generous and upright people than the Iraqis. You will be embarrassed by their hospitality even though they have nothing. Don't treat them as refugees for they are in their own country. Their children will be poor, in years to come they will know that the light of liberation in their lives was brought by you.

If there are casualties of war then remember that when they woke up and got dressed in the morning they did not plan to die this day. Allow them dignity in death. Bury them properly and mark their graves.

It is my foremost intention to bring every single one of you out alive but there may be people among us who will not see the end of this campaign. We will put them in their sleeping bags and send them back. There will be no time for sorrow.

The enemy should be in no doubt that we are his nemesis and that we are bringing about his rightful destruction. There are many regional commanders who have stains on their souls and they are stoking the fires of hell for Saddam. He and his forces will be destroyed by this coalition for what they have done. As they die they will know their deeds have brought them to this place. Show them no pity.

It is a big step to take another human life. It is not to be done lightly. I know of men who have taken life needlessly in other conflicts, I can assure you they live with the Mark of Cain upon them. If someone surrenders to you then remember they have that right in international law and ensure that one day they go home to their family.

The ones who wish to fight, well, we aim to please.

If you harm the regiment or its history by over-enthusiasm in killing or in cowardice, know it is your family who will suffer. You will be shunned unless your conduct is of the highest for your deeds will follow you down through history. We will bring shame on neither our uniform or our nation.

[Regarding the use by Saddam of chemical or biological weapons] It is not a question of if, it's a question of when. We know he has already devolved the decision to lower commanders, and that means he has already taken the decision himself. If we survive the first strike we will survive the attack.

As for ourselves, let's bring everyone home and leave Iraq a better place for us having been there.

Our business now is north.[12]

In popular culture[edit]

On 31 October 2003 he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire, for his service in Iraq [1] and was invested on 7 April 2004. Collins was promoted to colonel and moved to the General Staff on 30 June 2003.[13]

The "Mark of Cain" line from the speech inspired the title of the 2007 Film4 Productions drama The Mark of Cain. In the film a commanding officer makes a speech based on Collins' to his men.[14]

The last episode of the 2008 television series 10 Days to War features a version of the speech performed by Kenneth Branagh as Collins.[15]

He set up the Peace Support College in Sarajevo before becoming DACOS Training at HQ Land Command until his retirement.

In the video game Modern Warfare 3, Tim Collins's inspirational speech is quoted when you die.

False accusations from Iraq[edit]

After serving in the Iraq War he was accused by US Army reservist Major Re Biastre of the mistreatment of Iraqi civilians and prisoners of war. Following an investigation by the Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Military Police, he was cleared of any wrongdoing. He later won substantial undisclosed libel damages from both the Sunday Express and the Sunday Mirror newspapers.[16]

Post-military career[edit]

He officially left the army on 5 August 2004.[17]

Collins has been approached by both the Conservative Party and the Ulster Unionist Party to run for Parliament, though has not made any commitment to either party. During the 2005 Ulster Unionist leadership election he was cited by a number of prominent Ulster Unionists as an outside figure who would make a good leader, but Collins declined as he felt he had "no experience of politics."[18]

Collins is a signatory of the founding statement of principles of the Henry Jackson Society, which advocates a pro-active approach to the spread of liberal democracy through the world. He has recently been critical of the Iraq war: "the UK and US pour blood and treasure into overseas campaigns which seem to have no ending and no goal ... Clearly I was naive".[19]

Since leaving the Army, Collins' views on the Iraq conflict and other military issues have been widely sought.[20]


In 2007, Collins was host of a three-part documentary called Ships That Changed the World[21] for BBC Northern Ireland.

In December, 2008 – during an interview on the BBC’s Today programme, Collins said that, when he left in 2004, the British Army was already undermanned for existing commitments.[22]

Collins is the Chief Executive Officer of specialist security company, New Century Consulting.[23]

In February 2011 Tim Collins appeared on the BBC news programme Panorama in a special entitled 'Forgotten Heroes'. In the documentary, Collins meets veterans struggling to cope with civilian life and sleeps rough on the streets of Brighton with another former soldier.[24]

In December 2011, it was revealed that Collins was approached to stand as an elected police commissioner for the Conservatives in Kent and originally was standing, however he later dropped out of the race.[25]

Since leaving the army Collins has also made a number of corporate speaking appearances, applying his military values to a business environment with a company called Military Speakers.[26]

Works[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 57100. pp. 2–3. 31 October 2003. Retrieved 23 December 2009.
  2. ^ "Tim Collins OBE". City Speakers International. 
  3. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 48809. p. 15278. 30 November 1981. Retrieved 23 December 2009.
  4. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 48970. p. 5963. 30 April 1982. Retrieved 23 December 2009.
  5. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 49188. p. 15994. 7 December 1982. Retrieved 23 December 2009.
  6. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 50066. p. 3891. 18 March 1985. Retrieved 23 December 2009.
  7. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 50301. p. 15012. 28 October 1985. Retrieved 23 December 2009.
  8. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 53068. pp. 16672–16673. 5 October 1992. Retrieved 23 December 2009.
  9. ^ The London Gazette: no. 55543. pp. 7302–7303. 6 July 1999. Retrieved 23 December 2009.
  10. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 56734. pp. 1–2. 29 October 2002. Retrieved 23 December 2009.
  11. ^ "Iraq war colonel awarded OBE". BBC News. 2004-04-07. Retrieved 2007-11-16. 
  12. ^ "UK troops told: Be just and strong". BBC News. 20 March 2003. Archived from the original on June 15, 2009. Retrieved June 15, 2009. 
  13. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 57049. p. 11141. 9 September 2003. Retrieved 23 December 2009.
  14. ^ Marchant, Tony (2007-04-03). "Why I was driven to write a soldier's tale". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2007-11-16. 
  15. ^ "Episode 8: Our Business is North". BBC. 2008-03-19. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  16. ^ BBC News "Colonel wins libel damages". BBC News. 2004-04-02. Retrieved 2007-11-16. 
  17. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 57378. p. 10077. 10 August 2004. Retrieved 23 December 2009.
  18. ^ "UUP peer hints at outsider leader". BBC News. 2005-06-08. Retrieved 2007-11-16. 
  19. ^ Collins, Tim (2005-09-18). "This is a mess of our own making". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2007-11-16. 
  20. ^ Lusher, Adam; Adam Stones; Jonathan Wynne-Jones (2006-05-13). "Disband the RAF, says Iraq war's inspirational colonel". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2007-11-16. 
  21. ^ BBC Northern Ireland: Ships That Changed the World
  22. ^ Today; Saturday 20/12/2008 at 07:32hrs. BBC
  23. ^ Management Team, New Century Consulting. Retrieved on 14 May 2010
  24. ^ Panorama; Thursday 10/02/2011 at 11:07hrs. BBC
  25. ^ "Police commissioner poll suggests lack of support". BBC News. 19 June 2012. 
  26. ^ [1]

External links[edit]