Monday, 20 October 2014

Another busted 'Vow'.

The nightmares are coming back, an article on PTSD in the Gruniad was the trigger; coupled with the clear ignorance presented by the 'Government Research Team' trying to claim violence associated with PTSD was already present as a character flaw or psychological trait before military training even commenced. Trying to avoid the obvious reality once a human being has been in combat they are changed, permanently, whether in the front line or dealing with the casualties when they return to 'normal life' after being in combat.

The MoD is still trying to say it is not their fault or responsibility that so many ex-combatants from Northern Ireland, Falklands, Bosnia, Gulf War or Afghanistan end up in prison for violent assaults or murder, routinely of people they know; far too often their wives or girl friends. The researchers on the Government 'Team' are working like mad to prove it is all the service personnel's, the Armed Services have trained to be violent, fault. Yet the numbers of ex-service personnel in jail for violence is around five times the norm for their age groups as is their likelihood to commit suicide or be homeless.

Here is my take on the causative link and it is pretty personal:

I was trained as a health care professional, I went to Dartmouth to complete my RN officer training, I was never trained to be violent. I had basic weapon training so, if I had to, I could use a weapon to protect the patients in my care. I was taught to fire, strip down and maintain a 9mm Browning pistol and a NATO Standard FM SLR.

My specific service related training was as a Triage and Resuscitation Officer and a Nuclear, Bacteriological and Chemical Defence Officer. The latter dealing with, for example, the known problems of nuclear weapon exposure in serving personnel and what to do.

In 1982 I saw active service in the Falklands, skip the details, but I came back angry at what I had seen and experienced plus the conduct of the politicians whose stupidity had put myself, friends and men on both sides into danger, maiming many, killing quite a few - six of my friends were in the latter group. On our return to the UK we faced the same problem my father's generation had in 1945 - just how do you explain what you saw and did. So you say nothing, you internalise the hurt and anger, you pretend to be 'normal' because that is what is expected of you by the service, especially as an officer of Her Majesty's Royal Navy and three weeks after you return, you are starting at your next posting where good folk, who have no clue what you did and saw, expect you to act as an officer.

You say nothing to them about your girlfriend in Plymouth who is now very worried who you are becoming because you pushed them into the entrance of Debenhams then threw yourself down on top of them when a car back fired in the street. Who by Christmas 1982 tries to let you down gently as the person you were before May 1982 has gone and she can no longer cope with who you are now. You nod and admit you have not been the best company, tend to get angry for no real reason, you understand; then stuff that anger into the pressure cooker with the rest, screw the top down and tighten the safety valve down another turn.

Then in January 1983 a friend who was with you in the Falklands is killed in a training accident in Norway, completely avoidable, a senior warrant officer made the wrong call, a stupid call. You had been part of the honour guard, three weeks before, at his wedding. You put that anger into the pressure vessel with all the rest.

Then you decide 'I am not making any new friends', because when they die it hurts and you are already hurting too much to take much more. You increasingly isolate yourself off or drink to excess when in company - it is easier if you can not remember the faces just in case they die as well.

PTSD whose origin is in combat is about internalised anger and the dissonance between what you know, saw, felt, smelled and experienced and what you have been taught 'society' expects of you or simply does not want to know - you are an officer deal with it!

You get married and try to have a normal life when four years in, while having a flash back nightmare you nearly strangle your wife, you lose the head with your two and half year old child for no other reason than you are angry with the world. Your Dad, who was your mentor and guide, dies - you stick that in the pressure vessel along with the rest because you do not have the time to deal with that, your practice, the increasing sense of failure as a husband and a father and your second kid. In your mid 30's you have your first breakdown, you assault your wife but still you can not say what you are actually angry about because it is now behind so many walls you can no longer see it - even if you wanted to (which you do not). So you lie to the Psychiatrist and play the counseling game because you are smart, educated and you know how to fake 'carrying on as normal'. Folk with depression spend a lot of time lying to themselves, so it is dead easy to fool others. The air bags in the car go off in an accident and you are back in the Falklands with the smell of cordite.

Eventually even you can no longer lie to yourself, something happens, an incident becomes a wrecking ball, the walls you built up so high come tumbling down and all you are left with is the raw anger you have been burying for twenty seven years. Your marriage has failed and your behaviour towards your ex-wife has driven a wedge between you and your daughter.

In between most of your surviving RN and RM friends from the time have failed marriages, too many have drink problems or have committed suicide - that is just amongst officers you knew.

Then you read in the Gruniad the current UK Government is trying to claim your violence and all the violence of others suffering from combat related PTSD is because you were a violent person before you signed on.

The nation's claimed 'covenant' with its Armed Forces is just another UK Government vow that is not fit to wipe your arse with, along with 'the NHS is safe in our hands' and 'Scotland will get full powers of devolution if you vote No in the referendum'.

I am not going to apologise for being angry because not telling people you are angry, causes your health and life serious problems. This is one lesson I have learned since October 1982 when my personal nightmare began and one have no intention of repeating.


  1. Exceptional writing Peter, most of us have no idea what it is like, you take us with you on your journey from the Falklands on. Thank you seems far to little to cover what you and many others have/are going through but it is all I have. Thank you for your honesty in taking me in a small way, along on your journey. I can also appreciate how hard it must be for someone who has promised to save lives to watch so many suffer through so many needless wars. It must hurt even more knowing that, I am sorry for any more hurt caused to you by my saying this. THANK YOU

  2. Hello Peter

    I looked after my father after his heart attack. He went on to develop Alzheimer's. My brother gave me just enough support, rather belatedly, to keep going. I was available for my father day and night. In total I cared for him for 17 years and was with him when he died at home. It was the hardest thing I have ever done by far. As a student I worked on the roads, building sites, factories. Nowhere near as demanding.

    After his death I was diagnosed as suffering from COPD. I must have had it for some time because I stopped smoking 25 years ago.

    Fairly recently I was reading a book by "history detectives". They were describing the battle of Waterloo and the behaviour of Marshal Ney. It was Ney who had played such a major role in bringing Napoleon's troopsback from Russia.

    At Waterloo, Ney ordered a part of his cavalry to pursue English infantry marching away over the brow of a hill. An officer questioned the order and Ney flew into a rage and ordered all the cavalry to go. The English could not believe it. They were not retreating. They formed the square and shot the cavalry to bits. At some point Ney was seen beating a cannon with his sword.

    The detectives concluded Ney had been suffering PTSD. They gave the four defining symptoms. I realised that I had those symptoms. To some degree I still do.

    I wish you well.

    I have written a long submission for the Smith Commission. Very long. Too long. I have written about health inequalities in Scotland. The fundamental causes of health inequalities in Scotland are inequalities in income, wealth and power. To tackle that is the biggest challenge Scotland faces. What is needed is the re-distribution of wealth and power and a reasonable level of wages and benefits. Infrastructure, housing and the delivery of services will all have to change. control of economic and welfare policies is needed and more money in the Scottish budget.

    The academic research is world-class, I believe. I quote it extensively. I do that for the reason that I think few in the audience have a clear idea of the implications of the research. No party, except the SNP, has a policy directed at health inequalities. Labour is developing a policy - belatedly. If it is to be of use the Labour submission to the Smith Commission must change. The Conservatives attitude to health inequalities can be found somewhere in its 2011 manifesto. I found nothing except perhaps a reference to being individually responsible. What mean ba*****s they are.

    I have also referred at length to the policies from UK government that have contributed to widening health inequalities.

    My purpose in raising this with you here is to explore if you might be willing to take a look at what I have written. I would like to try to make health inequalities the subject of a campaign while also exposing the damage that the UK does to Scots and is unwilling to provide the means to let us attempt sufficient repair. May I send to you what I have written?

    Sam McComb

  3. Sam - send, please do - my own view is the Smith Commission is a waste of taxpayer's money because it will recommend what ever Cameron has told it to.

    The bloke claims to be a 'cross bencher' but is actually a Tory through and through, I hold no hope for it to come to any conclusion with regards Scottish Home rule which will not survive the May 2015 GE - it is all just smoke and mirrors to keep us daft Jocks in our place - just so much pish and wind.

    1. I agree entirely about the Smith Commission. I found your response of Dec 2013 to Lallands Peat Worrier's blog on sovereignty while trying to establish its foundations in Scots' common law for myself. I think your point about the way that, say the Welfare Act 2012 was signed into law with the express disagreement of the SMP's and Scots MP's who represented the considered will of the Scottish people, is pivotal. I also think it is unarguable. Whether that authority is considered as vested in the electorate or in their representatives the behaviour of Westminster is as though the Treaty of Union subsumed Scottish common law and principle into itself and it has 'enacted' that legal fallacy by custom and practice. time to expose the fallacy and un-enact it, I think. By the way, I suffer from non combat PTSD. I would give almost anything not to. I may not be able to throw that off, with its multiplicity of tentacles in so many areas of life, but I have decided that I can attempt something more amenable to success. Like getting rid of Westminster. Best.

  4. Peter
    I have tried but failed to cannot copy and paste here my much edited submission to Smith. May I send a file attachment to your email address?

    My email is


    My email is


  5. Very eye opening writing Peter, and the westminster lot have absolutely no scruples, morality or humanity. They are indifferent to people suffering, makes my blood boil. I thought of my grandad who fought in WW1 he must have been very young, what he must have witnessed doesnt bare thinking about. I watched a short animation last night about 2 men stuck in the trenches it was horrific but a very powerful film by 2 artists from Denmark I think, really brought it home. Brrr. No more war.