London: Gordon Brown on Tuesday said he felt for the grieving mother who criticised him over a letter of condolence he sent after her son died in Afghanistan.
The prime minister, who described himself as a "shy person", used his regular press conference to explain a 13-minute telephone call, made on Sunday night, to Jacqui Janes, whose 20-year-old soldier son, James, was killed in Helmand province.
Janes asked him how he would feel if one of his children bled to death "because of lack of helicopters and lack of equipment".
"Today, I feel for the mother's grief," Brown said. "I understand the pain she's going through. It's a terrible personal sadness."
The prime minister, whose first child, Jennifer Jane, died shortly after she was born seven years ago, added: "I understand very well the sadness that she feels, and the way that she has expressed her grief is something that I can also clearly understand.
"I wanted to say during that conversation with her, but thought I could not really do so because I do not know her, that when there is a personal loss as deep and immediate as she has experienced it takes time to recover... "That loss can never be replaced. You have got to take every day at a time ... over time, comfort comes from understanding that your son has played an important role in the security of our country and died in such a courageous and brave way that nobody will ever forget it."
Brown said he had apologised to Janes for mistakes he may have made in his letter and said he sometimes wrote to several family members such as the spouse and parents of mkembers of the armed forces killed in conflict.
"The last thing on my mind was to offend Jacqui Janes," he said. "I am a parent also. I understand the pain people feel for a loved one."
The bodies of six British servicemen killed in Afghanistan, including five who died when an Afghan policeman turned his gun on them, were flown back to the UK yesterday. Shortly after 11am, a C17 transport plane carrying the six flew low over the Wiltshire town of Wootton Bassett into RAF Lyneham.