Soldiers in Iraq were left with a shortage of crucial body armour as a consequence of ministers’ ignorance of warnings over additional time for war preparation, according to the head of the British armed forces.

Speaking at a the UK Iraq War Enquiry, head of the armed forces Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, who was in charge of delivering equipment at the time, said that former Prime Minister Tony Blair had not allowed enough time to prepare for the war.

“It would have made a significant difference if the military had been given an extra two months to plan for the war,” he said.

Blair delayed planning as he feared the preparations for war would become public, the Iraq inquiry heard.

According to Stirrup the shortages of enhanced body armour, boots and desert-combat uniforms would have been avoided if planners had been given six months to prepare, instead of the four they were given.

“The problem of course was that we simply didn’t have enough time, as it turned out, to do everything we needed to do before the operation started,” he said

“The ministers were warned in late 2002 about the serious risk that troops would face if they were not fully equipped in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.”