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Friday, March 31, 2006

An Answer For 'The Beep'

The Beep recently asked whether I thought there should be a public enquiry over the Deepcut deaths. This is the sort of issue that I usually run a mile from as far as this blog goes but hey ho why not.

Personally I can't really see what a public enquiry would achieve. There have already been three enquiries which have pretty much concluded that:

  • the deaths were suicide.
  • there were serious problems with some of the instructors at Deepcut and the manner in which they were treating some recruits.
The deaths were tragic and I can totally understand the parents wanting to find some form of closure. I don't think another public enquiry would give them what they want.

The thing that winds me up about the whole affair has been (and still is) the media coverage of the issue. This tends to imply that:
  • the deaths were in some way linked. Highly unlikely as they were spread out over a 7 year period.
  • there was a conspiracy by the army. Highly unlikely - the army is far too disorganised to successfully organise a conspiracy. Although the army didn't deal well with some of the deaths at the time.
Perhaps the greatest misrepresentation by the media is that the abuses of power that took place by some of the instructors are still commonplace today.

In fact nothing is further from the truth. These days the relationship between instrutor and recruit is highly controlled and monitored. Recruits have multiple avenues to report anything they regard as bullying or excessive. Even minor infringements or excesses by instructors result in the individual thrown out of the training establishment and returned to their unit. In fact many serving soldiers are reluctant to serve in a training establishment as they feel that the recruits hold too much power.

I know none of this will bring back the four soldiers who died but perhaps it is time to put this behind us and move on.

UPDATE: The findings of the latest review are here if anyone is interested in reading a bit more than the media care to publish.

14 Comments:

Blogger PI said...

Thanks US. That is reassuring.

8:55 pm  
Blogger Katy Newton said...

Linked deaths and conspiracies sell papers.

I've worked with a few government agencies now and I think everyone should aim to work within one at least once in their lives. The truth is that the government machine is neither well-oiled nor efficient. I'm not going to say that the left hand couldn't know what the right hand was doing if it tried, but 99% of the time it just isn't interested.

11:23 pm  
Blogger PI said...

US; My e-mail didn't get through. Just to say many thanks for your help and I'll pass the message on. I'm walking on egg shells somewhat.

11:46 pm  
Blogger Lou Lou said...

hear hear couldn't have put it better myself

7:33 am  
Blogger the Beep said...

Thanks US, very interesting to have "an insiders" view, and you bring out some points that the press have completely ignored. I wonder why (tongue in cheek)?
The problem we general public (ignorant of the internal systems) have is that we have been fed snippets that seems to say that each internal enquiry has left some areas unexamined/under-explained. I agree that now it probably would just waste money time and emotion to go public now. Perhaps though, if they had been more willing at the start of this to be opened to public examination a lot of heartache could have been saved. I think generally people are suspicious of the reasons behind the constant refusals.

10:15 am  
Anonymous David Duff said...

Hmmmmn! Yes, but I worry a bit about those regiments whose basic training is *designed* to give recruits a hard time with the specific purpose of weeding out those who can't take it. I don't just mean endurance testing, I mean making the whole ethos so deeply aggravating that lesser spirits give up. If that gets watered down it will be less than helpful.

5:20 pm  
Blogger Universal Soldier said...

Katy - Agreed.

PI - I forgot to mention the fact that it will probably take your grandson 3 months to join anyway.

Lou Lou - cheers.

The Beep - I agree - unfortunately the forces have always been wary of the media. Methinks they should probably hire someone from the trade to advise them.

David - although everyone in the forces thinks that training has 'gone soft' since their day the truth is that it hasn't. While there have been some changes at the training depots these haven't been at the detriment of the training. Things are still hard but just carried out in a proper manner.

9:00 pm  
Blogger toastedeggbanjo said...

People, parents especially, have a problem with suicide "they would never do it", "they had everything to live for"

Truth is the human soul is a lot less fragile than many can except, suicides, successful or attempted, in the army, although not an everyday event, happen probably more frequently than anyone would like to admit. Its because its a hard life any many simply can't hack it and I am not only talking about during training.

I know of 3 successful and 3 attempted in my time

Successful

1 because on tour he "lost" a weapon, it was infact hidden as he was careless, ultimatley he could handle the expected punishment (which BTW was only going to be a verbal dressing down)

1 Becuase he was caughturinating on a regiment sign and was told to report to the RSM in the morning, he hung him self that night

1 I am not so sure, he shot himself in his room in NI and it is not entirely known wheter he killed himself or it was a stupid accident

Attempts

1 shot himself whilst on guard, reason he gave was his wife was having an affair

1 attempted to cut his own penis off for the same reason above

1 went mad after reading a book about witchcraft and taking drugs, not sure if this really classes as a suicide attempt.

All those stories have one common factor, the army was not the sole blame, it takes a lot to make someone off themselves and a high pressure enviorment like the armed services is often not the best place for these individuals

The question is not solely about barbaric or sadistic practices of training staff, it is also about the suitiblity on the participent. In the US they actually have a more complex system to assure the right minded person joins, the British get you in and then assess you, saying that of course, suicides also occur in the US armed forces as well

10:33 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i've heard things about yellow/red cards, that recruits seem to be using to avoid a full bollocking, and get the instructor one. not entirely sure how these work, but from what i've heard (rumours/gossip, you know the score) it means that if an instructor is a bit too loud a recruit can pull out a yellow card and give the instructor a warning, and if they persist, then out comes the red card, and the instructor marches off to the OCs office to explain why he was bullying the recruit. i could be wrong though. any light to shed on the subject?

11:41 pm  
Anonymous jamie said...

In Singapore last year, three officers were charged for the death of a recruit who had died during a "dunking exercise".

One of them is my current housemate.

3:42 am  
Blogger Universal Soldier said...

Eggbanjo - good comment.

Anon - from what I've heard the red/yellow card thing is a bit of a myth. I do know at some sites the recruits have to a write a daily diary which gets read once a week by an officer.

6:48 am  
Anonymous David Duff said...

Well, I started being re-assured by your accurate comment that old soldiers always reckon it was harder in their day, but then I read about this yellow/red card nonsense and, God help us, a 'Dear Diary'.

I remember an incident once in which a distraught 'Tom' rushed into the barrack-room and began a frantic search for his toggle-rope in order to hang himself. Within minutes several were thrown over to him on the misguided grounds that if you were the one to find a suicide you were entitled to a free discharge. Anyway, the sobbing 'Tom' (I think he'd just received a "Dear John") rushed off to the bogs followed a few minutes later by some hopefulls but apparently he decided against it.

12:20 pm  
Blogger toastedeggbanjo said...

This sounds a bit sick but that last comment reminded me of a Part One orders I read on a transit camp, it was a warning to the rest of a TA unit about an incident that had occured with respect to an attempted suicide

The gist of it was that this guy had covered him self in petrol and was only thwarted in his attempted due to the lack of a match.

What was funny was the note on orders was over the fact that this guy had wandered sround the camp and asked several people for a spare match and no-one had either tried to stop him or report the incident

9:26 pm  
Blogger toastedeggbanjo said...

Quick one about red/yellow cards and diary, urban myths, I heard of them back in 87 when I went through basic

9:27 pm  

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