As a member of Liberty & Amnesty UK (and … most importantly, someone who nearly signed up) I am ashamed to say that Human Rights violations have been taking place in my home town of Harrogate.
Army Foundation College is the only place in the UK that deals with Child Soldiers of the British Tradition. People who are signing up in the hope of escaping from their lives in to a life of gallantry when in fact they will just be canon fodder.
The accused instructors at the Army Foundation College face charges ranging from actual bodily harm and battery, to mistreatment of subordinates.
The instructors are alleged to have punched and kicked the cadets and then smeared their face with cow dung – all in all 17 former instructors were charged with misconduct and forced to Court Martial at Bulford Court Martial Centre on 21-22 September. The military spokesperson refused to comment to the press, who I have gleaned this information from, any further.
The alleged abuse victims, six alleged victims in total, were each aged 17 when the abuse is said to have taken place in 2014. The alleged abuse took place when instructors accompanied about 200 recruits on a battle camp in Kirkcudbright, Scotland.
A source told the Mail on Sunday: “The recruits were ordered to charge with bayonets fixed to their rifles, as they would if they cleared an enemy trench in battle. According to legal documents, some recruits allege they were punched, kicked and tripped as they advanced.
“Some claim when they fell into a stream, instructors used their boots to push the recruits’ heads under the water, making them gasp for air.”
Others claim instructors carrying handfuls of sheep and cow dung approached from behind and smeared the excrement over their faces and pressed it into their mouths. The instructors – who are thought to be veterans of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan – face 40 charges of battery, ill-treatment and actual bodily harm. They could be jailed if found guilty. The investigation has reportedly cost £1m and taken three years.
An Army spokesperson further commented that: “These cases are subject to judicial consideration therefore it would not be appropriate to comment further”.
The college appeared in a 2016 Channel 5 documentary about the Army’s youngest recruits, called Real Recruits: Squaddies at 16.
Defence chiefs agreed to the documentary as the Army struggles to recruit to plug a 4,000 shortfall in soldiers. Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, where details of the case first emerged, former British army commander in Afghanistan, Colonel Richard Kemp, described the case as extraordinary. “I have never heard of a case of this scale,” he said.
“If these charges are proven it will certainly be detrimental to the army from a recruiting perspective. But I am incredulous as well as surprised. While there must be some aggression in recruit training, what is alleged goes far beyond what is acceptable.”
And, yes – yes, it is unacceptable. Kids (these are 16-17 year olds in the end) are trying to make something out of themselves by joining something greater than the individual by signing up to the armed services. However, this is a misguided effort – they will ultimately end up as cannon fodder.