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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 November 2005, 18:26 GMT
Ex-marines' shock over 'bullying'
Marines fighting in footage obtained by the News of the World
Marines fighting in footage obtained by the News of the World
Former Royal Marines have spoken of their shock at seeing footage of alleged bullying, seemingly involving naked soldiers being made to fight each other.

In the News of the World footage, one of the men is kicked in the face, allegedly by one of his superiors in 42 Commando.

James Coughlan, who was in 42 Commando and left after 20 years service in February, said he had not known of initiation rituals during his time in the marines and was amazed by the footage.

"I'm really shocked by it. The photos are quite graphic.

"In my own experience, we were encouraged to let off steam in an environment that was closed.

"For instance if we came back from an operation, the commanding officer often spoke to local councillors, there was always a concern we would be let loose on Plymouth.

I wouldn't want to be in the unit where other people were kicking each other unconscious
James Coughlan
"We would often stay within the confines of the barracks and have a few beers.

"But I was shocked by this. It really looks to me as though this has got totally out of hand."

Mr Coughlan, who now runs outdoor adventure firm Mountain and Glen, said it was possible that drinking had led a lesser incident to get seriously out of control.

He said immense stresses were encountered during difficult missions, like his own deployment to the Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq, or other humanitarian missions where soldiers might encounter suffering or dead civilians for the first time.

"We would go away having gone through the longest basic training in the world, but suddenly be in a humanitarian operation. It was often a whole different ball game.

"I personally found that quite traumatic. People can't train you for seeing some of the things you are going to see. You would return, having been under an immense amount of pressure for an extended period of time with no opportunity prior to your return to let off steam."

NCO training

But he added: "It has got out of hand. There is the nudity element. The fact that there was an NCO involved. Our NCOs are carefully selected, rigorously trained and are all aware of their responsibilities.

"There weren't really initiation ceremonies like that."

Mr Coughlan, an acting sergeant who served in Bosnia and Iraq, said treatment of recruits was limited to light banter by those returning from action.

"While we were deployed recruits would join the unit. They were tasked with staying behind to guard the barracks.

"There was a kind of resentment on the unit's return that these guys hadn't gone through what we had. But I never saw that manifest in violence. It would manifest itself in mickey-taking but never violence.

"That person on the day may have your life in their hands. I wouldn't want to be in the unit where other people were kicking each other unconscious."

Ex-MP John Burnett, a former Royal Marine from 42 Commando, said there should be a court of inquiry. He said there was no place in the Royal Marines for bullies.

"This business of bullying that I've just heard about this last 24 hours is repugnant to generations of Royal Marines.

"It is a force that is dependent on mutual respect and encouragement and teamwork. Those are the crucial things that make a real Royal Marine Commando".


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