Downing Street gagged military chiefs from responding to the findings of the Chilcot Inquiry and prevented them from issuing their own views to soldiers, sailors and airmen, it has been disclosed.

Interviews with chiefs were forbidden, while Downing Street gave them “agreed top lines” to pass down to troops according to communications orders seen by the Telegraph.

Defence sources said there were “real worries” about the impact on morale in the Armed Forces of the damning conclusions, but the muzzling of military leaders had appeared to create a “leadership vacuum” in the wake of the report.

The military and Ministry of Defence faced some of the fiercest criticism from Sir John Chilcot’s seven year inquiry. His 12-volume report tore into the planning, preparation and resourcing of the military campaign that left 179 personnel dead, and declared that it ended “a very long way from success”.

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