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NEW SHAME OF TROOPS: RITUAL ABUSE; Naked Marines forced to drink alcohol, eat soiled food, fight each other, get pelted with eggs and roll around in thorn bushes.. and the MoD says they're just letting off steam.

Byline: EXCLUSIVE By CHRIS HUGHES, Security Correspondent, and RICHARD SMITH

THESE are the shock video pictures that reveal how ritual abuse and casual brutality is rife in the armed forces.

Twenty Marines, just back from serving in Iraq, are made to strip naked, plied with booze and humiliated by senior colleagues.

The men, from 40 Commando, are forced to:

DRINK their own vomit and urine;

EAT Weetabix covered in mud and urine;

BATTER one another while naked and leap into thorny bushes;

SIMULATE sex with one another;

GO on gruelling runs while drunk until they throw up.

The scenes will appal civilians but are believed to be typical of similar ceremonies widespread across bases in Britain.

They come just days after pictures emerged of abuse involving Marines at another base in which one was kicked unconscious.

One 40 Commando Marine source revealed yesterday: "I've seen people break their arms and gouge their bodies badly. It can get nasty

"Everyone knows it goes on but top brass turn a blind eye.

"You just have to get blind drunk and put up with it."

Last night the MoD insisted these scenes, filmed in Taunton, Somerset, had merely been part of a "party" and dismissed them as "letting off steam".

Marines, many in fancy dress, carried out the barbaric abuse as a colleague openly filmed the 15-minute footage at the brigade's base.

One scene shows a Marine being battered to the floor while his tormentor jumps on his back and simulates sex.

The film starts with the men, naked and caked in mud, being made to down strong cider.

An older Marine wearing a nun's outfit orders them to race round the grounds while drinking booze from their cups.

When they have returned from the gruelling run, more Marines give them even more cider and hurl abuse at anyone who refuses to drink it immediately.

The footage then shows the men lined up against a wall and pelted with eggs as they try to put on gas masks.

Shortly afterwards they are made to batter one another in a makeshift wrestling ring to provide more cheap laughs for senior servicemen.

They are also forced to go on another tough run but this time are given milk to drink to make it more likely they will be sick.

A man staggers and falls over several times while desperately trying not to vomit. Others simply throw up and carry on.

As they approach the finishing line the exhausted troops are ordered to do press-ups.

Then they receive a gruesome treat - Weetabix cereal biscuits soaked in urine and left in the mud. One sinks to his knees and shakes his head, only for the Marine dressed as a nun to bawl: "Eat it!" He does.

The insider added: "The boys have to prove they are up for anything. No one would ever say, 'No, I'm not doing that'.

"It would mean they would lose face in front of the other boys and if you can't take the chance of a weak link on the battlefield.

"It can get out of hand, sometimes, and I've seen young recruits almost cry with the pain of being hit."

To round off the humiliation, the naked servicemen must sprint through a line of other troops who kick them before they have to jump into thorn bushes and nettles.

Many are covered in blood and drunk. Yet as they collapse in exhaustion they are given more cider.

Their ordeal, filmed in January this year, continues later that evening at a pub. They are banned from using the loo and made to drink their own urine and vomit.

The source went on: "All the lads were dying to go to the toilet but knew that if they went they would get a forfeit.

"Loads of them just wet themselves but some did it in a pint glass and then drank it in one.

"If anyone threw up they had to drink it back or do a 'death wet' - which is basically downing a pint of spirits. I've seen one lad down a pint of vodka before. It's mad."

Last night the MoD tried to play down the abhorrent incident.

A spokesman said: "We understand this is a party in January 2005 involving junior ranks that followed a demanding operational tour.

"We fully recognise that our people need to have an opportunity to let off steam but must at all times ensure this does not cross the line into unacceptable behaviour. We're unaware of any allegations of bullying arising from this event."

At the weekend, footage emerged of men from 42 Commando involved in disgraceful scenes.

A naked man was forced to take part in a fistfight as 40 other naked colleagues watched. He was then kicked unconscious.

Colonel Bob Stewart, who commanded British forces in Bosnia, condemned that incident.

He said: "It's wrong and horrific."

The military's Special Investigations Board has launched a probe.

CAPTION(S):

FANCY DRESS; The men are seated as other Marines, dressed as women, pour out booze and press them to drink; FORCE FEED; An older Marine, dressed up as a nun, screams at the man to eat the soiled Weetabix off the muddy ground; AGAINST WALL; Naked apart from gas masks, Marines are pelted with eggs; SO GRUELLING; Despite being exhausted, rituals continue as men are urged to do a series of press-ups in the mud; HUMILIATION; Final indignity comes as troops are kicked before having to somersault into thorn bushes and nettles; BASE: Marine camp at Taunton
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 29, 2005
Words:921
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