The Government has 'hung veterans out to dry', says ex-SAS soldier

23 May 2021, 14:34 | Updated: 23 May 2021, 14:54

By Tim Dodd

Former SAS soldier Mark Billingham tells An Inconvenient Ruth podcast that the Government's prosecutions of veterans has 'hung them out to dry'.

The conversation follows recent prosecutions of veterans by the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Billingham told Ruth Davidson: "I think it's terrible the way our Government has treated our troops.

"The troops had been in Yemen before that anyway, so weren't properly trained like they are today to go across to places like Northern Ireland, so they got put into a situation where there were a lot of internal problems.

"The troops don't go out there trying to kill people. They'll go out there to do their best to save lives. If you're a soldier people go 'you're a trained killer', no you're not, you're trained to kill people if you have to, but you are trained to save lives and do the right thing. I think it's terrible the way the Government have hung them out to dry instead of protecting them."

Ruth asked: "Do you think there's a real worry that the way in which these prosecutions are happening, it taints our current forces, it shames veterans who've had very good service, and it discourages people from joining the army now?"

Mr. Billingham replied: "Yes it does. People look at it and go, I wouldn't join the army - Queen and country and that's how you get treated when things go not the way everybody wanted it to go. You have to make ridiculous decisions in a split second.

"When a soldier gets something wrong, he gets punished three times. He gets punished by his own unit, he gets punished by the MOD, and he gets punished by the civilian courts as well!"

Ruth then asked Mr. Billingham about military service: "It's really fallen out of fashion for kids who are a bit wild to go into very disciplined programmes. Do you think that there's still merit in that sort of path?"

He replied: "I think we should have national service again. I think for kids leaving school that don't go on to further education, because there's a lot of unemployment anyway, if they just did two years in the military, it's fantastic for everyone, you learn to look after yourself, you learn discipline, you learn respect.

"As soon as you say 'military', people think oh it's guns and killing people, and it's not. We have medics, we have engineers, vets. So going to the military for two years to learn a structure, an ardent life of discipline, because we don't have that no more, we've lost all that. We've lost the male and female role models now."