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BULLYING? IT WAS JUST FUN.

AN ARMY sergeant and four corporals accused of bullying recruits were simply demonstrating the "lighter side of the army", their former CO said yesterday.

The five are alleged to have made youngsters put soap and hair in their mouths, forcing one to simulate sex in front of colleagues and others to wipe chocolate from an NCO's bottom. A mock execution is also said to have been staged. But ex-lieutenant Hugo Smyth, 29, called the incidents at a training college at Winchester, Hants, "just a bit of fun".

He told a court-martial: "Soldiers have personalities too." Mr Smyth, now a civilian, said: "We were trying to get the schoolboy out of the recruits and put the soldier into them." Cpl Kevin Hosford used a Mars bar melted between his buttocks to show the consequences of defecating in a sleeping bag, it is said.

Mr Smyth said the reaction from recruits was one of amusement and they did not mind wiping away the chocolate. He added: "As a lesson, it got the point across in an enthusiastic manner." Referring to allegations that instructors put soap and hair in recruits' mouths to punish untidiness, he said: "You have to employ a method they will remember."

He could not recall a mock execution, but said blank ammunition from an exercise would be "fired off" at the end of the day. Mr Smyth added: "On this particular occasion, rounds were aimed in the general direction of the recruits.

"They would roll down the hill and play `dead ant' like in the television programme Blackadder. They would shake their arms and legs in the air."

Cpl Hosford and Cpl Mark Hey, of the Royal Dragoon Guards, Sgt Carl Dakin, of 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards, Cpl Trevor Gray, of the Queen's Royal Hussars, and Cpl Brian Gildea, of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, all deny ill-treatment charges.

Yesterday at Aldershot, Hosford, Hey and Dakin were each cleared of one of the charges against them. The court-martial continues.
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 7, 1999
Words:331
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