Teenage recruits have alleged that they were attacked and abused by instructors, from the Army Foundation College in Harrogate
Seventeen Army instructors have been charged with committing horrific assaults on teenage recruits in the Armed Forces’ biggest-ever abuse case, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
The alleged abuse includes instructors pushing the recruits’ heads under water until they choked and forcing animal excrement into their mouths during a training exercise.
Some of the instructors are also said to have repeatedly kicked and punched the terrified teenagers, according to legal documents.
The veterans face a total of 40 charges of battery, ill-treatment and actual bodily harm and could be jailed if found guilty.
They will appear at a military court next month following a three-year, £1 million military police investigation into abuse claims made by six recruits, who were 17 at the time of the alleged attacks.
The accused, all veterans of battles in Iraq or Afghanistan, vehemently deny the charges.
Whatever the outcome of the case, it is feared the publicity will deepen the Army’s recruitment crisis, with troop numbers already at their lowest for centuries.
Top brass are also under fire for signing up 16- and 17-year-olds, who critics say are too young to cope with military life.
Acused: Corporal Scott Richard Dyson from the Yorkshire Regiment denies all charges
Rob Comley (left) and Danny Royle (right) have been charged with committing horrific assaults on teenage recruits in the Armed Forces’ biggest-ever abuse case
The instructors, from the Army Foundation College (AFC) in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, were charged last week.
They have been ordered to attend preliminary legal hearings at Bulford Military Court, Wiltshire, on September 21 and 22.
Military sources told The Mail on Sunday last night how the instructors accompanied about 200 recruits on a battle camp in Kirkcudbright, Scotland.
Over two days, the trainees were taught infantry skills, including using bayonets. They were due to graduate a few weeks later after almost a year of rigorous military training.
A source said: ‘The recruits were ordered to charge with bayonets fixed to their rifles, as they would if they cleared an enemy trench in battle. According to legal documents, some recruits allege they were punched, kicked and tripped as they advanced.
Some claim when they fell into a stream, instructors used their boots to push the recruits’ heads under the water, making them gasp for air. Others claim instructors carrying handfuls of sheep and cow dung approached from behind and smeared the excrement over their faces and pressed it into their mouths.
Whatever the outcome of the case, it is feared the publicity will deepen the Army’s recruitment crisis, with troop numbers already at their lowest for centuries
‘A few weeks later the recruits reported what allegedly happened to military police. They launched a full-scale criminal probe that eventually identified six alleged victims.
One has since left the Army but the other five completed their training and joined regiments, including one who has become a lance corporal in the Royal Regiment of Scotland.’
But military sources have also told the MoS that the highly experienced instructors vehemently deny the incidents took place. It was stressed they are highly experienced combat veterans who were strictly vetted and received specialist training before joining the AFC.
According to sources, the instructors maintain they conducted themselves within strict official guidelines that forbid mishandling or roughing up of recruits, even on exercises simulating combat situations. Many of them have since been promoted.
Last night, the former British Army commander in Afghanistan, Colonel Richard Kemp, said: ‘This is extraordinary, I have never heard of a case of this scale.
If these charges are proven it will certainly be detrimental to the Army from a recruiting perspective.
But I am incredulous as well as surprised. While there must be some aggression in recruit training, what is alleged goes far beyond what is acceptable.’
The MoD last night confirmed the details of the case.