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FORTHRIGHT & FEARLESS.

Byline: IVOR WYNNE JONES

EVENTS surrounding the mysterious death of 18-year-old Llangollen soldier Cheryl James and three other recruits at the Deepcut Camp depot of the Royal Logistics Corps,in Surrey,prompt one to ask what has happened to the British Army?

As the Army merely reflects the community from which it is recruited,one should really be asking what has happened to British society?

We are told there is a modern military culture of bullying,physical assault and sexual intimidation, highlighted by the strange shootings at Deepcut.

Induction into any branch of the armed services requires rapid conversion of a freethinking civilian into a disciplined acceptor of orders, yet someone who at the end of his training is glowing with pride and self-esteem.

It was my misfortune to do basic training twice,first with the RAF and many months later with the Army,at Colchester. I then volunteered to complete the Parachute Regiment's notorious P Company selection course at Aldershot, a process designed to encourage anyone doubting his mental commitment to blossom as a paratrooper to concede defeat and return to his unit.

At no stage did I see any bullying.

Neither did I experience today's foul language,now portrayed as the norm in TV plays of what Army life was supposed to be like in the 1940s. Everyone,including the officers, who passed through the Army at that time had good cause to praise his sergeant major as a wise moulder of real men.

Modern youth might guffaw at the idea,but those same sergeant-majors would march us off to church parade on Sunday mornings.

The Deepcut depot of the RLC was never intended to create committed front line fighters. It is a corps founded 10 years ago by amalgamating all the Army's cooks, clerks,drivers, storekeepers,postmen and labourers under one cap badge -described by the rest of the Army as the Really Large Corps.

The RLC is not exactly the toughest of Army units, so what went so seriously wrong at Deepcut?Last week a general told a House of Commons select committee the RLC regime resulted in too much risk of self-harm.Why?

Aggression,bullying,foul language and noisy gangs have become the evening norm on our streets. It is from this human flotsam and jetsam that the Army has to take many of its recruits, the product of in discipline in homes, schools,pubs, un-policed streets and namby-pamby courts.

Was bullying at Deepcut endemic among the recruits because of poor supervision,or did bullying stem from the supervisors because they were simply a reflection of 21st century TV culture,pouring salt on socially wounded youths they were supposed to mould into soldiers?

Did the Deepcut NCOs have a chip on their shoulder as well as stripes on their sleeves?Would they have been given the same authority in a front line unit?Do the Deepcut problems exist in more active Army regiments and corps?If not,might it be good idea for infantry NCOs to take over the initial training of the RLC?
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Title Annotation:Comment
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 31, 2004
Words:509
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