Father travels to Iraq to see place where his son was killed
A proud father has travelled to Iraq to see the spot where his son was killed in a rocket attack.
Geoff Dunsmore made the personal pilgrimage to place a cross where his 29-year-old son Chris died on July 19, 2007.
Mr Dunsmore made the simple but poignant gesture during a two-week stay near Basra, to film a documentary for the BBC to mark the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War.
SenIor Aircraftsman Chris Dunsmore, who lived off Hinckley Road in Leicester's West End, became the first RAF reservist to be killed in combat since the Second World War.
Mr Dunsmore, of Powys, Wales, who lived in Desford for 20 years, said: "It was very special moment. I had bought a small wooden cross from an RAF stall for the Poppy Appeal.
"I wrote Chris' name on it and the names of his two colleagues who also lost their lives in the attack.
"The cross had a poppy in the middle of it.
"Somehow it seemed to be the right thing to leave there.
"I felt Chris with me there but then I have always felt him with me since the day he died."
The journey to Iraq had ended a six-year wait for Mr Dunsmore to visit the spot where his son met his death.
Mr Dunsmore, former assistant head of student support services at Leicestershire education authority, said: "It was poignant but also quite strange.
"The portable buildings that Chris was sheltering in have been removed, but we were able to locate the spot.
"There was not much to leave the cross on, so I had to place it on a bomb blast wall which was, in itself, quite significant."
Senior Aircraftsman Dunsmore, a former student at Bosworth Community College in Desford, was resting up hours before he was due to fly home for two weeks' leave.
Mr Dunsmore said: "I had spoken to Chris about his upcoming leave. He was very upbeat about it.
"He said he wanted to get back to Leicester so he could just stand in the rain. It was 50 degrees out there and so, so hot and dry."
Mr Dunsmore said that, in his phone calls home from Basra, Chris also spoke of the resilience and good nature of the Iraqi people and the positive steps being taken to rebuild the country.
Mr Dunsmore said: "Chris was very positive about what was happening out there.
"He and members of his squadron had helped build a water pipeline for a village and renovated a school in their spare time.
"He told me he had gone out there to help rebuild the country and help the people in a new life, a new country."
Mr Dunsmore flew to Iraq after being contacted by the BBC about the documentary.
He said: "I got a call last year from the BBC who wanted to do something to mark the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War.
"I was thinking of marking the fifth anniversary of Chris' death and it was as if he was telling me this was the way to do it.
"The programme asks me the question if I think my son died in vain.
"I do not think he died in vain.
"It was a privilege to meet the ordinary people of Iraq and feel their genuine warmth and thanks to our armed forces.
"As we filmed, one man stopped and asked what we were doing. When I explained, he shook my hand and thanked me for the sacrifice my son had made. That tells me Chris did not die in vain.
"The country has a long way to go, but it is heading in the right direction."
A BBC spokesman said: "For the most part, with the country still suffering from terrorist violence, the repercussions of the conflict have been devastating and long-lasting.
"However, on the streets of Basra, Geoff meets a group of young people who have grown up knowing nothing but war but who believe that they can build a different future in Iraq today."
The documentary Iraq: Did My Son Die in Vain? is to be shown on BBC Two at 9pm on Wednesday.
• Watch clips from Iraq: Did My Son Die in Vain?