Colonel Tim Collins, who led the 1st Battalion, the Royal Irish Regiment during the war, was awarded undisclosed damages against two British newspapers by a judge at Belfast High Court on Friday. 

"This was a fight he had to win: he's been to hell and back," the Belfast-born officer's lawyer, Ernie Telford, told reporters outside the court. 

"He is used to leading his men in conflict for a cause he believes is right and just, but this time he was by himself. He's relieved it's over, and now he just wants to get on with his life."

Newspapers reports

At the brief hearing, lawyers for the Sunday Express and the Sunday Mirror apologised for the reports, printed in May last year, and admitted they were untrue. 

The Sunday Express had run a story saying Collins was accused of standing by while a henchman of Saddam Hussein was set alight then shot, while the Sunday Mirror wrongly reported a military investigation had been carried out into allegations nine Iraqis were shot by his men while attempting to surrender. 

"This was a fight he had to win: he's been to hell and back" 

Ernie Telford,
Collin's lawyer

Collins, 43, made world headlines for his Iraq address to his troops, in which he urged them: "If you are ferocious in battle remember to be magnanimous in victory." 

A copy of the speech was reportedly put on the wall of US
President George Bush's office, and Britain's heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles wrote to him praising his "stirring, civilised and humane" words. 

Collins, who was last year cleared of separate allegations of mistreating Iraqi prisoners made by a US officer, is to leave the army in August.