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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 November 2005, 15:42 GMT
Marines 'violent bullying' probed
Marines fighting in footage obtained by the News of the World
Marines fighting in footage obtained by the News of the World
A criminal inquiry is being carried out after a film apparently showing a Royal Marine being beaten unconscious was leaked to a newspaper.

The footage, obtained by the News of the World, appears to show two naked men being forced to fight each other as part of an initiation ceremony.

One marine then appears to be kicked in the face by a third, allegedly one of his superiors in 42 Commando.

The Ministry of Defence said bullying in the military would not be tolerated.

The MoD also said it was "very far from an official training exercise" and that it was trying to establish what lay "behind" the video.

'Naked fighting'

The newspaper said the footage had been filmed covertly by another marine at 42 Commando's base at Bickleigh Barracks, near Plymouth in May.

Twelve soldiers who had just finished their 32-week commando training were alleged to have taken part in the initiation ritual, while around 40 other marines - also stripped naked - watched.

The fight appears to have been "directed" by two non-commissioned officers. One was dressed in a surgeon's outfit, the other dressed as a schoolgirl.

The Royal Marines take these allegations extremely seriously and have a zero tolerance policy on bullying and harassment
Ministry of Defence

The marine who filmed the alleged fight told the newspaper the ritual was more than drunken antics and that the protagonists were forced to fight in a humiliating manner.

The images show two naked men in the centre of a large group who at first appear to fight with large mats rolled round their arms.

But then a man dressed in a blue surgeon-style outfit motions for them to use bare fists.

When one of the soldiers complains, the man appears to kick him in the face, allegedly leaving him unconscious on the grass.

'Taken seriously'

The MoD has appointed the Royal Military Police to carry out an investigation.

An MoD spokesman said: "The Royal Marines take these allegations extremely seriously and have a zero tolerance policy on bullying and harassment."

He would not comment on the detail of the allegations because of the ongoing investigation, but added: "Bullying and harassment is not widespread within the Armed Forces.

"Behaviour of this kind will not be tolerated and every effort is made to apply this policy rigorously."

Why are they naked for goodness sake?
Colonel Bob Stewart

A former Commander of British forces in Bosnia, Colonel Bob Stewart, said the footage shocked him to the core and that it would appal 42 Commando too.

"It is some form of initiation ceremony. It is clearly booze fuelled.

"It is clearly some kind of party and it is absolutely wrong and horrific, simply because this is not what our soldiers should be undergoing".

But if it was some kind of party, the fun ended pretty quickly, he said, adding: "Why are they naked, for goodness' sake?"

A former Liberal Democrat MP and ex-Marine said the episode was "repugnant to generations of Royal Marines".

John Burnett, ex-MP for Torridge and West Devon, said the corps was "dependent on mutual respect and encouragement and teamwork".

The Conservative party's spokesman for homeland security Patrick Mercer said he had come across this sort of thing occasionally during his 26 years in the Army.

Assault investigated

"I can't tell you how damaging it is," he said.

"Just imagine a young man turning up in his unit and being made to wrestle naked in a field while his non-commissioned officers are dressed up in women's frillies. I mean, it's not very dignified stuff, is it?"

This business of bullying.... is repugnant to generations of Royal Marines. It is a force that is dependant on mutual respect and encouragement and teamwork
Former MP John Burnett, ex-Royal Marine from 42 Commando
But he added that strenuous efforts were being made in the Armed Forces to prevent such things from happening.

The BBC's defence correspondent Paul Wood said the MoD and superior officers in the elite 42 Commando would be appalled by what was shown on the tape.

"There is consensus that this kind of thing is wrong and has to be stamped out," he said.

"The crucial distinction is between simple drunken antics and bullying - something which these men are forced to do."

He added that although the MoD had not commented about the nature of its investigation, the criminal aspect of it centred on whether the man shown to be knocked unconscious in the video was assaulted.


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