A FORMER soldier has slammed the decision to charge a veteran with murder over the shooting of two men during The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

David Parkman, of Taunton, joined an estimated 10,000 ex-members of the armed forces protesting about the treatment of some of their former colleagues on a protest march on London on Good Friday.

The event, which began at Horse Guards and proceeded down the Mall to Buckingham Palace and The Cenotaph, was a show of support for Soldier F, who is accused of murder on Bloody Sunday.

The protest came after Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said there was enough evidence to prosecute Soldier F for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney, who were shot dead on January 30, 1972.

The veteran will also face charges for the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell, the PPS said.

A total of 13 people died after British troops opened fire during a protest march against internment.

The day became known as Bloody Sunday - one of the darkest days of the Northern Ireland Troubles.

Families of those killed have expressed anger that only one former soldier would face charges.

But businessman Mr Parkman, 63, who was in the Grenadier Guards from 1970-84 and was not present at the fateful event, said: “I’m aware of what’s been printed and said, but there are two sides to the story.

“The soldiers came under fire from gunmen and they returned fire.

“Clearly it was a tragedy for all concerned and 13 people were killed. Some of them were innocent bystanders, some were IRA gunmen.

“I don’t think we’re likely to find the whole truth of what happened over 40 years ago.”

Meanwhile the Bloody Sunday families have vowed to continue their campaign for justice.

The PPS said 16 other former soldiers and two suspected ex-members of the Official IRA, all of whom were also investigated as part of a major police murder probe, will not face prosecution.

Relatives of those who died reacted with a mix of vindication, disappointment and defiance.

While welcoming the news for the six families directly impacted by the decision to prosecute Soldier F - declaring that a “victory” - the campaigners said they would keep fighting for the other dead and injured.

John Kelly, whose 17-year-old brother Michael was shot dead, said: “The dead cannot cry out for justice, it is the duty of the living to do so for them. 

“We have cried out for them for many years, and now we have succeeded for them. Do not deny us justice any longer.”

Mickey McKinney, who is set to see Soldier F in court over the murder of his brother Willie, said: “For us here today it is important to point out that justice for one family is justice for all of us.”

The families had marched together from the scene of the shootings in Derry’s Bogside neighbourhood to a city centre hotel on Thursday morning to be informed of the PPS’s long-awaited decisions.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson confirmed the Ministry of Defence would support Soldier F and pay his legal costs.

Mr Parkman believes Sinn Fein has instigated the case, along with investigations into alleged crimes during The Troubles by more than 100 veterans. He said just 31 terrorists are being investigated.

“Veterans are an easy target because all the information is out there and they’re easy to chase,” he said.

“And as part of the Good Friday Agreement - (the 1998 peace pact between the Irish and British governments) - scores of convicted terrorists received comfort letters reducing their sentences for serious crimes such as murder and a promise that others wouldn’t be investigated for offences prior to the agreement. No troops or members of the security forces were offered the same considerations.

“It makes me very angry comparing member of the security forces with terrorists and making it so easy for a Sinn Fein-led strategy to advance its united Ireland ambitions.”

Mr Parkman said he saw “some pretty horrible moments” during his five tours of Northern Ireland but was unaware of any shoot-to-kill policy.

“We had very strict rules regarding opening fire,” added Mr Parkman, who nowadays runs a business making blast protective seating for the military.

“We had to give three warnings - and by then the gunman was long gone anyway.

“I feel very aggrieved that vets have been hounded for events over 40 years ago which were fully investigated at the time. Any discharge of weapon was investigated by the RUC and the military police at the time.

“They’re called The Troubles, but it was more like a war, being fired at with AK47s and rocket propelled grenades."

Another veteran from Somerset, Chris Studham, who served with the Royal Army Medical Corps, also attended the protest.

He said: “We’ve got guys being called back to Northern Ireland to be tried by what were the enemies of Great Britain at the time, the IRA - by its political wing, Sinn Fein.

“This should have been stopped. The Good Friday Agreement gave freedom to people who had been imprisoned or were being tried or suspected of crimes.

“Yet British soldiers who were putting their lives on the line aren’t getting the support they deserve.”