Select Committee on Defence Written Evidence

Memorandum from Professor Margaret Cox


  This is a personal report based on regular lengthy discussions with 15 cadets during 1991-92 on Saturdays in my home in Guildford. Although I work at King's College London in Education, I live in Guildford which is about 10 miles from Aldershot where these young cadets were based. My daughter, who was 14-15 at the time was going out with one young cadet aged 17 and I always arranged that he would pick her up from my house before they went out to the cinema or other recreation area. The first time I met him I was amazed that he was accompanied by 15 other male cadets (aged 16-17) who wanted to come to my home. I invited them in for refreshments and they chose to stay at my home for several hours each week (Saturday) while my daughter went out with her boyfriend. This went on for several months about two Saturdays per month (about eight occasions in total).

  As I used to be a school teacher, and train new and existing teachers, as well as previously being a Sunday school teacher and working with young university students I am very experienced in communicating with young people. Each week I had to think of activities that might interest these young cadets and keep them occupied for more than three hours. However, although some watched TV or played games in the garden most of them wanted to talk to me about their worries concerning their jobs as cadets. Gradually a whole list of concerns were raised by one or other of the boys and I was so concerned that I wanted to write to the Commander in Chief to report their concerns. However, they all pressed me not to say anything because they felt it would make matters worse for them. Eventually, my daughter lost interest in the cadet boyfriend and they all stopped coming to my house so I never say them again.

  In the following sections I have listed the concerns to the best of my memory and accuracy but it is over 10 years ago.


  The main concerns of the cadets with whom I spoke regularly were firstly bullying by more senior officers and secondly having no means of lodging any complaints without fear of retribution.


  Although the cadets rarely went into great detail they reported each time I saw them that they were bullied both physically and psychologically by senior staff and older cadets. When they first started their training they appeared to be mainly taught through threats and general aggression rather than reason and good leadership. From the comments they made it seemed that this was the expected culture of the camp and the practices condoned or overlooked by the most senior staff. The bullying was such that many of them wanted to go home and regretted signing up for the army. Several of them also expressed concerns for their physical well being although I never saw any physical signs of brutality. The fact that these young men preferred to spend several hours a week with a middle aged mother instead of going out on the town says something about the effects their cadet experiences were having on their joie de vivre and their self confidence.

  There appeared to be an accepted culture of bullying—almost akin to "John Brown's School days" in the training camp. Cadets were regularly shouted at, had comforts withdrawn and made to do extensive labour and other forms of punishment for only the most minor of offences. Any bullying which occurred from older cadets was not checked or controlled and the result was a demoralised group of 16 cadets all of whom were very unhappy about being in the army. They told me of many specific incidences which I cannot now remember but which covered several hours of our discussions.

Limited means of getting help

  On hearing about the distress of these young cadets I tried to suggest ways in which they could report this bullying and possibly get it stopped. The only person they could go to was the Army Padre who was available for counselling. However, most of these cadets felt that they would be further bullied by their colleagues if they were seen to be going to the padre either because of the possible religious connotations and/or because it was known by everyone that he was the only person to turn to. They did try and support each other where possible, but some of the cadets amongst the 15 were particularly fearful of the consequences of standing up to more aggressive colleagues. As a consequence there were no effective arrangements or policies in place to protect these young men and to ensure that they were treated with humanity and respect.


  It may be that there have been improvements in the last 10 years since my discussions with these cadets however, the recent reports in the press suggest that further improvements could be made. The following may therefore be useful to the committee in its deliberations.

Initial Induction of New Recruits

  There should be a specific officer (other than the padre) who is responsible for the physical and psychological ongoing welfare of the new recruits for at least their first year. This should include providing weekly compulsory discussion sessions in small groups for all new cadets during which they can raise issues of concern without the fear of reprisals. There should be a method by which an individual recruit can contact someone for help without the rest of the cadets knowing about it. Email might be a possibility.

Ongoing support for the welfare of cadets

  More senior army personnel should be responsible for the ongoing welfare of army cadets as well as for their military training and their health. Training may need to be given to long established staff who have "grown accustomed" to a culture of aggression and bullying in the camps.

Welfare policies

  All camps should have clearly articulated written welfare policies distributed to all (including the cadets when they first arrive) which explain the policies of support etc of the camp and also list the persons responsible for ensuring the policies are carried out, and procedures which can be used to seek help and ensure that no bullying takes place.

Monitoring the practices

  Even with policies in place, the actual practices need to be monitored regularly by both keeping records of any concerns raised, issues discussed at welfare meetings (see above) and actions taken by senior staff to remedy problems. There should also be on the spot checks in the sleeping quarters, during training and during recreational periods to ensure that no underhand bullying is taking place.

  A feedback form issued to all cadets twice a year which can be returned anonymously which would enable any inappropriate behaviours to be reported and checked out to ensure that all cadets are protected against any future aggressions or bullying.

September 2004

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