December 23rd, 2003


Yet another sad story with a happy ending, just in time for Christmas.

Here's a story you probably won't see in America's papers, but it's one worth noting...

Alan Tudball, a 23-year-old member of the Household Cavalry, an armored unit in the British military, was scheduled to marry his fiance Claire McCombe in April of this year, and then enjoy a reception at the Leasowe Castle Hotel in Moreton. He had made the reservations months in advance. Unfortunately, when he was making his plans, Tudball didn't know he would be going to Iraq.

On March 31st of this year, Tudball was the gunner in a group of Scimitars, on forward reconnaissance 25 miles north of Basra near the Shatt al-Arab waterway when two U.S. A-10 "tankbuster" planes noticed his convoy. Though the skies were clear, and the convoy was marked with infra-red recognition panels and British Flags on their roofs, the two A-10s -- piloted by U.S. reservists -- approached the convoy for a strafing run.

The drone and impact of a strafing run by the A-10's 30 caliber rapid-fire cannons (video) is fierce and terrible, arguably the worst sound you can hear if you are in an enemy tank. After the hellish buzz of the first strafing run by the two U.S. planes, two Scimitars were seriously damaged and many of their crewmembers injured or killed.

After the attack, members of the British convoy tried to wave off the two A-10s, sending up red smoke, while Tudball laid greviously wounded inside the wreck of his burning vehicle, with massive head injuries, shrapnel in his gut, and a shatterred left leg. To make matters worse, ammunition began to explode inside the turret of the tank. Tudball probably would have died there if it weren't for the quick actions of 18-year-old British trooper Christopher Finney, who pulled Tudball out of the burning Scimitar, gave him first aid, radioed for help, and moved him away to safety, even as the two A-10s circled around for another strafing run.

The second strafing attack showered the area with shrapnel, wounding Finney repeatedly. Despite his wounds, Finney went to the second Scimitar in the convoy and tried to rescue Lt. Col. Matty Hull, who was trapped inside that vehicle, only to be forced back by the the smoke and fumes Lt. Col. Hull died in the attack.

Alan Tudball spent the next month in a coma, and was left partially paralysed -- even today, seven months after the attack, he still cannot use his left arm. There are also lumps of shrapnel still in his bowel and his left leg was so badly shattered that surgeons had to rebuild his thigh bone with steel pins. That leg is now an inch shorter than the other.

To add insult to injury, however, the British Ministry of Defence refused to pay the cancellation fee for his wedding. Likewise, the U.S. military did nothing to compensate the British soldiers who were wounded. As a result, the Leasowe Castle Hotel initiated legal proceedings to collect the money which was owed.

Fortunately, the story has received some media attention in the U.K. So, this morning I googled the Leasowe Castle Hotel, gave them a call, and asked their friendly --- if harried -- deskperson about "the news article regarding the soldier". In an embarassed tone, yes, she mentioned that she was aware of the issue. In fact, it appeared obvious that she had been hearing about it all morning. At first, she mentioned that she was unsure about what was happening but that they weren't previously made aware of Mr. Tudball's circumstances. As a result, the owner was currently working out an arrangement with the family. I mentioned that I would probably be giving the matter a bit of exposure and that I would appreciate a call back, if possible. Fortunately, my call was interrupted -- someone had come up to the desk with a press release.

The lawsuit has been dropped, the owner of the Leasowe Castle Hotel would be proud to personally host the wedding of Mr. Alan Tudball and Miss Claire McCombe free of charge at a time to be arranged. All of this made possible by the press, the goodwill of the Leasowe Castle Hotel, and by the people who have no doubt been bringing their feelings regarding the matter to the attention of the hotel's management.

No thanks required for the respective militaries involved, but at least ordinary people know that soldiers in such circumstances deserve far better.

You'd think they'd tell you these things, but...

I can finally apply for my British citizenship.

I called the British Consulate in San Francisco., after hearing rumors last year of changes in the laws. They verified that there was indeed legislation in the works -- the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act of 2002 -- but that things were still uncertain.

Basically, my having a British mother -- as opposed to a British father -- didn't give me the right to British citizenship. However, the proposed legislation would allow all children born of a British mother after 1961 to be a citizen.

The nice lady at the consulate put my name on a list and said that they would call me as soon as they had any information.

and, well... they didn't. Turns out the law was approved and went in to effect earlier this year. They never bothered updating the information at to tell anyone this, either. Update: They have created a page specifically for this, but failed to update several other pages.

So, while it irks me that I could have had British citizenship for months now and that it was so damn hard to find out about the new law, I *am* pleased that it actually exists. I wouldn't have expected a call back from the U.S. government either, so that's nothing new.

Really, I'm not sure whether I would be living in the U.S. today if I had been born with British citizenship. I most likely would have studied overseas and just stayed there. I still feel robbed of so much -- especially of my grandparents -- and yet being around here has had its advantages too. It's too easy for me to look back on my life and feel upset and frustrated, but really, it could have gone a whole lot worse. I've got Kirsten, for instance.

I know it's completely unrealistic, but I'd like my citizenship for Christmas.